Determining liability in a slip-and-fall incident can be difficult. Invariably, if a lawsuit is filed, it will involve the facility's owner, manager, and often the cleaning contractor.
More than one million slip-and-fall accidents occur in the United States each year. They are the No. 1 reason people go to a hospital emergency room, and 17,000 people die each year from these accidents.
Slip-and-fall accidents also result in thousands of lawsuits each year. Determining liability can be difficult in these cases. However, invariably, if a lawsuit is filed, it will involve the facility's owner, manager, and often the cleaning contractor.
Because of this, owners, managers and contractors should know under what circumstances they may be held liable. These circumstances are the following:
- The building owner, manager or cleaning contractor caused the accident.
- The building owner, manager or cleaning contractor was aware of a dangerous surface but did nothing about it.
- The building owner, manager or cleaning contractor should have known of a dangerous surface or situation but did nothing about it.
"The last point is often referred to as 'reasonableness' and is usually at the heart of a slip-and-fall lawsuit," says Adam Strizzi, marketing manager for Crown Matting Technologies. "Instead of turning to the law, what judges and juries inevitably turn to is simple common sense."
There are several common-sense strategies managers can take to help avoid slip-and-fall accidents at their facilities. Strizzi suggests the installation of mats in all of the following areas of a typical facility as one of the most important:
- Inside and outside key building entrances.
- Inside and outside entrances that lead from one area of an office to another, such as a warehouse area.
- At the top and bottom of stairways and escalators.
- At the top and bottom of step areas (one to three steps).
- Inside and outside elevators.
- Around food-service areas and water fountains.
- On hard-surface walkways that meet carpeted areas.
- In restroom walkways.
- Intermittently along hard-surface walkways.
"With thousands of people dying each year due to slip-and-fall accidents, building owners and managers must do all they can to reduce these numbers," adds Strizzi. "Installing entry mats is one of the best things they can do."