We have all experienced that moment in time when we are walking along and suddenly take a step and feel our foot slip. We are usually focused on something or just in our own thoughts and we feel totally out of control. In our very young years, we would very likely fall over as the experience was totally new. As we get older we somehow become better at managing the slip, such as when walking across a kitchen floor just washed and catching oneself before you fall.
Unfortunately, as we get older our ability to manage the slip gets harder and harder and sadly our ability to avoid injury when we fall almost becomes impossible. We find that a simple fall can lead to very serious injuries, including
- Head Injuries, including fractures of the skull and Acquired Brain Injuries
- Spinal Injuries, to the cervical, thoracic or lumbar spine
- Torn Ligaments in a shoulder
- Fracture of the humerus in an arm
- Fracture of the elbow
- Fracture of the wrist
- Damage to the hand
- Hip Fracture
- Pelvic Fracture
- Fracture of the patella in the knee
- Torn ligaments in the knee
- Ankle fractures
- Fractures in the foot
Sadly, again with age the long term outcome of these serious injuries dramatically changes the quality of the person’s life, affecting their ability to take care of themselves, their ability to care for others in their lives, such as a husband or partner and especially any children or grandchildren.
ABC News has recently published an article on how the season from November to January usually results in a massive increase in trauma related admissions to hospitals, and though most of the article focused on road accidents, attention was given to what we consider a very serious health issue and that is serious injuries arising from a fall.*
The article notes the following sad situation – In a neighbouring trauma bay, an elderly lady has been brought in after a fall. She is awake but looks uncomfortable lying flat on her back with a hard neck collar immobilising her spine. She slipped and hit her head while playing with her grandchildren.
* Christmas in a hospital’s trauma unit means fractures, head injuries and stab wounds, https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-12-24/christmas-in-a-hospitals-trauma-unit-means-stab-wounds-fracture/10645584
The article goes on to note that geriatric trauma is fast becoming a priority area of trauma care. Two-thirds of female and one-third of male injury-related deaths occur in those aged over 65.
Falls account for 73 per cent of cases of major trauma in patients over 65 years of age. Support for the article comes from a Victorian State Trauma Annual Report that notes that there has been a 33% increase in serious major trauma to those 85 years of age and older and with a 14% increase in what can be classified simply as fall from ground level.
One may believe that falls by a person over the age of 85 is of little consequence in the law – but that would be an incorrect opinion. The law looks at the quality of life of the person and there are many persons who at age 85 and older are leading a very active life, and the loss of their physical health becomes a major life changing event, unexpected and unplanned. It was one of the matters considered in a recent decision of our Victorian Supreme Court which awarded a 91 year old man for a femoral neck fracture with lasting effects on mobility.**
These slips and falls can occur in so many locations where someone is responsible for the condition of the flooring at the time of the fall, such as
- At your place of work;
- While walking into a store at your local shopping centre;
- While walking in the public areas of a shopping centre,
- While attending an event at a public sports centre, concert or entertainment venue such as a theatre;
- While in a restaurant or other food and drink venue;
- While walking at someone’s home or maybe going up or down a flight of stairs; or
There is a considerable body of law that deals with liabilities of public venues for the condition of a floor, and what efforts have to be made to ensure that the floor is safe. In saying so, a public venue does not have to guarantee the safety of its floors at all times, only that reasonable efforts are made to keep the floor safe.
Those efforts include
- Having a reasonable system for the cleaning of the venue before the public is invited in, such as a generally clean and tidy
- Having a system for ongoing inspection of the floors during trading hours
- Making sure any system of inspection is actually followed in a consistent manner
- Responding to any items that floor to the ground in a timely manner
- Having a comprehensive system to respond to a slipping hazard which can include warning signs and having a person remain at the site till the area is safe
- Ensuring all cleaning staff put up warning sign at any time the floor is cleaned
- Putting down matts for areas exposed to rain or to persons tracking in rain on their footwear
- Having matts placed down in areas that there is a high expectation that food items are likely to fall to the floor and create a danger, such as in and around check out areas or food display counters
- Using appropriate packaging to minimize the likelihood certain highly hazardous items like grapes do not fall to the ground.
**Scott v Wanklyn  VSC 382 (8 July 2016)
In the end all these systems can be created and published officially by a business, but it is the overall company philosophy that will be understood and implemented by its staff on a day to day basis. The philosophy has to be one of true concern for the wellbeing of its customers.
It has been our experience with some supermarkets can at times have highly documents systems of maintenance and cleaning and yet they create little in the way of safety to its customers. The problem we have encountered is that those working at the store, from the manger down to the service staff on the floor really do not care – and will leave areas dangerous as they work or walk right past them without concern during the trading hours.
So, if you or someone in your family suffers a slip and fall, and a serious injury follows, compensation may be available to address
- Pain and suffering, such as the award of $110,000 to the 91 year old man mentioned above
- Medical and related expenses such as aids to ambulate and to assist around the home and medication
- A financial value for the gratuitous services provided by family and friends in the past and that are likely to be needed into the future at a very generous hourly rate
- Costs of transportation to and from hospitals, doctors and other treating professionals
And such compensation can be extremely generous.
All companies involved in trade to the public have some type of insurance to provide assistance to those injured by an error in the way the flooring was maintained during trading hours. That insurance is there to assist those who are injured.
Many times a person injured will unsure of what to do after an slip and fall accident, and our booklet can be extremely helpful and can be downloaded at https://www.hcalawyers.com.au/slip-fall-claims-guide/.
What we are very concerned about is the practices of many of these businesses to try to avoid an injured person contacting a specialist personal injury lawyer, by offering to meet medical expenses or offering a small amount of compensation to close down the potential claim at an early stage for low compensation amounts. In our experience, every time a client has come to us with an offer of this type we have gone forward to provide them with compensation 100s of times higher that what was originally offered, and more importantly, after all legal expenses were paid. In other words, the injured person truly benefited from engaging our firm.
Why Should I Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer After I or a Family Member Suffers an Injury From a Slip, Trip or Fall?
A personal injury lawyer, in particular, a specialist personal injury lawyer, is needed right from the very beginning, as soon after the accident as possible. Speed is really important, as the evidence needed to show responsibility for an accident may disappear quickly. Only a very experienced personal injury lawyer can immediately understand what has happened and decide what evidence is needed right away to protect the interests of the person injured.
Most of the time the family’s attention is rightly placed on getting medical assistance to the person injured. The focus on the accident site, is best left to the specialist personal injury lawyer who can step immediately to undertake the work involved in: figuring out exactly what occurred, preserving evidence (such as with photographs or videos), and in getting the names and statements from all who witnessed the accident.
The situation can require knowledge of how a business operates so that evidence as to its current practices are documented before they are changed in response to a claim. For instance, grapes displayed loosely in a packing box on the open floor with no measures taken to anticipate grapes from time to time will fall to the floor.
How Long Does a Slip, Trip and Falls Claim Take?
The length of such a claim depends on a number of factors
- Did the accident occur within a work environment or outside of work;
- How soon after the accident the injured person retains a lawyer (the sooner the better);
- How long it takes for the injured person to receive the medical treatment to reach the point that the injury is seen as stable;
- The overall skill of the law firm retained by the injured person in understanding the claim and being able to put it forward in a way that the defendant and its insurer can understand why they are responsible and see the value of the claim;
- How soon can it be estimated that the injured person will be affected in their ability to work in the future and to what extent;
- The extent of medical care that will be needed into the future and how soon the cost of that medical care (and related support) can be estimated; and finally
- The attitude of the proposed defendant and its insurer to the claim and, in turn, their willingness to resolve the matter early on terms supportive to the injured person.
If the accident occurs in a work environment, there are statutory time frames that must be followed and a request for common law compensation cannot commence until one and half years after the accident.
Otherwise, we believe that, slip and fall accident claims within the greater Melbourne area can proceed quickly if we are retained early and the overall extent of the injuries and their consequences can be ascertained without much delay.
How Much am I Entitled to in a Slip, Trip and Fall Claim?
Slip, trip and falls claims are to cover for pain and suffering damages, as well as, out of pocket expenses and the likelihood the injured person may need income support into the future.
The amount of compensation can vary greatly depending upon the skill of the Victorian law firm representing the injured person. Our Henry Carus has defended against all the major firms in Victoria as an insurance defence lawyer, and he can fairly say that none of them truly understood the full value of the claims they were presenting.
At Henry Carus + Associates, we are regularly advised by those involved in these types of claims, that the compensation we obtain for those injured is generally greater than that of other firms in Victoria.
Can I be Compensated in a Slip, Trip and Fall Claim if I was Partially at Fault?
The short answer is: YES
It is common for a defendant or its insurer to assert that the person injured is partially at fault for a slip and fall and they can sometimes ask for a reduction of up to 50% or more, on the basis the injured person contributed to how the accident occurred.
Most of the time the allegation made against the injured person is a failure to see what was there to be seen.
These arguments can easily be addressed and diminished by a careful understanding of how the accident happened and through the science of how a person travels through a space.
A common situation is slipping on a liquid on the floor that can be said was “there to be seen” and since not seen, the injured person was obviously not paying attention. Such arguments can easily be set aside by:
- Noting the object essentially blended into the floor or pathway;
- Understanding that the venue was asking the injured person to look elsewhere at the time of the accident; and
- Being aware that a person has a limited scope of vision as they walk, and a photo of the area afterwards, does not show what the person could actually see when the accident happened.
Should I Accept the Insurance Company’s Offer after a Slip, Trip and Falls Claim?
While we cannot emphatically say any initial offer by an insurance company should be rejected but we are confident that most offers made before an injured person retains a specialist personal injury lawyer, should not be accepted. It is only after you engage an injury specialist, can an injured person truly understand the value of their claim and what they should in fact receive as compensation.
Our website is full of testimonials from clients who received an early offer from an insurance company, and then came to see us. What we achieved on those occasions was so much greater than the initial offer.
How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer for a Slip, Trip and Fall Claim?
This is an important question and the answer for our firm is – NOTHING until we win for you. We operate on a No Win No Fee basis, therefore, no fees or disbursements are owed to our firm in the unlikely event we are not successful in acting for you.
If you do win, we find that most of your legal costs will be paid for by the losing party.
What we emphasize is that our fees are not a percentage of your compensation amount, and we only get paid for our work.
More importantly, we believe the focus should not be on fees but on what the work produces for the injured person. Many times you can settle a matter quickly for low fees but the real benefit comes to the client in working that little bit more, and in that little bit more, the fees do not change but the compensation given can go up massively.
So, while a lot of firms advertise a No Win No Fee arrangement, what really matters is how that firm operates FOR YOU under that arrangement.
We believe our focus on getting clients the compensation they deserve is unparalleled in our field of personal injury law and have noted numerous examples on our Successes page: https://www.hcalawyers.com.au/success-stories/.
Why Should I Hire Henry Carus + Associates to Handle my Slip, Trip and Fall Claim?
Our firm has an unrivalled understanding of the areas of law involved. Our Henry Carus has worked as an insurance lawyer at a large Melbourne insurance firm and as an insurance partner at a boutique insurance firm in Victoria. In that time, he has handled slip, trip and fall accidents in all types of situations defending the interests of the companies involved in all aspects of normal day to day activity.
One of those clients has kept our Henry Carus on its retainer to assist in improving the overall quality of the safety of its business activities as it is very aware of the dangers of slips and falls.
In addition, we have access to his years of experience as a New York City trial lawyer who was trained to understand what evidence is needed to win a matter in court, and is therefore able to start to gather the necessary evidence from the outset.
This combined with his commitment to achieve the compensation each seriously injured person deserves has produced outcomes for our clients that are really something quite special.
What You Need to do When You or a Loved One is Injured in a Slip, Trip and Fall Accident?
Contact Henry Carus + Associates ASAP.
We are available 7 days a week to respond to your request for assistance:
- By phone on 03 9001 1318;
- By internet through our website: www.hcalawyers.com.au/contact/;
- By email on [email protected]
Our Henry Carus regularly attends accident site inspections with his legal staff to ensure all crucial evidence is obtained, and all legal aspects of the claim are covered from the outset. For instance, he recently attended an accident site in an outer suburb of Melbourne where an older man had fallen and suffered a very serious spinal fracture.
It may have taken over 4 hours to complete the site inspection, but the overall understanding of the accident and what evidence would be needed could only be gained by such a visit.
It is well known to our firm that his mindset is absent from the other firms. For instance, we inherited a matter from another firm some 2 years after the accident had occurred. We immediately went out to the accident site and were told by the injured person that her former lawyer had never gone out to see the site of the accident. What we learned about the accident after that visit not only allowed us to convince the insurance lawyer and the insurer the claim was an absolute winner, but also to achieve an incredible result in a very short period of time.
We strongly suggest that you do not delay in seeking the support of a specialist personal injury lawyer whenever a slip, trip or fall accident occurs.