Here at the New York City law firm of Weisfuse & Weisfuse, LLP, we often represent the injured victims of falls caused by the negligence or recklessness of others. We recently posted about the dangers of falls, especially as we age.
The New York Times recently published an important piece by Jane E. Brody in which she provided detailed suggestions for fall prevention. We all can benefit by reviewing these common-sense safety tips, especially seniors or anyone who is unsteady for medical reasons. Notably, these dangers are heightened now every time we step outside into the New York winter conditions that cause icy, slippery walks, driveways, streets and parking lots.
Preventative steps to take
Brody’s recommendations to decrease the risk of dangerous falls include:
- Choose footwear with soles made of rubber or neoprene (synthetic rubber). For icy conditions, consider adding traction cleats that can be attached to regular soles. Inside, it is better to wear footwear with “nonskid soles” rather than going barefoot or wearing socks.
- Be visually alert to hazards on the ground as you approach them.
- On ice or snow, take small steps “as flat-footed as possible,” while hunching slightly forward. Be especially careful of invisible “black ice.”
- Do not walk while carrying anything that obscures your vision.
- Remove or repair tripping hazards in your home, including immediate cleanup of any liquid or oily substance that spills on the floor.
- Walk mindfully by placing your feet carefully instead of dragging them.
- If you have any impairment that could contribute to unsteadiness, talk to a medical provider about recommendations for physical therapy. Anyone who keeps him or herself in better physical condition overall decreases the risk of falling.
- Talk to a physical or occupational therapist about safer ways to fall. For example, injury can be less severe when you remain relaxed during the descent and if you can twist your body for side impact, rather than reaching out with your hands. If you fall backward, try to protect your head by tucking your chin.
Brody even recommends visualizing these preventative practices mentally to increase the chance that you will respond accordingly when the real danger occurs.
The legal duty of reasonable care
Despite anyone’s own efforts to avoid falls, sometimes an unexpected slipping or tripping hazard presents itself because another person, a business or a governmental agency failed to exercise reasonable care to prevent harm to others. Examples of such fall hazards caused by the negligence of others include:
- Liquid or greasy substances or produce left on store or restaurant floors
- Uneven or broken sidewalks, streets or parking lots left in disrepair, creating tripping hazards
- Dangerous premises ignored in common areas of apartment buildings like uneven stairs or missing handrails
- Failure to remove or treat ice and snow in areas frequented by people both on public or private property
- Poor lighting on commercial, private or public property
- Failure to maintain a clean construction site free from debris
- Failure of a hospital or nursing facility to provide proper medical equipment to prevent patient falls
Anyone injured by a fall should speak as soon as possible with an experienced lawyer at Weisfuse & Weisfuse, LLP, to understand what legal options exist for recovery of resulting expenses and damages.