Slip and Fall Recovery for Elders
As people age their bones become more fragile, their health can deteriorate and their bodies tend to become more susceptible to injury. Preventing a fall is not as easy for an older adult, as the body is less flexible, problems with balance can develop, and reflexes are slower. Recovering from a slip and fall injury generally takes a lot longer for adults over the age of 65, and may require surgery as well as other medical treatments before mobility is once again regained.
If you are taking care of an elderly loved one, you probably want to do everything possible to minimize the potential risk of injury from a slip and fall accident. Elderly slip and fall accidents can be extremely painful, costly and emotionally challenging. Should your loved one be injured in a slip and fall accident, particularly one caused by another party's act of negligence, it is important you know how to pursue compensation allowed by law.
Common Slip and Fall Injuries Involving the Elderly
Million of adults are injured each year as a result of slip and fall or trip and fall accidents. According to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries among adults 65 and older.
The most common slip and fall injuries involving the elderly are:
- Hip fractures
- Other fractures, such as to the spine, forearm, leg, arm, hand or pelvis
- Head trauma, including traumatic brain injuries
Even when an older adult suffers no major injuries in a fall, it is not uncommon to see him or her attempt to limit mobility and refrain from engaging in activities that could potentially increase the risk of a fall injury in the future.
While one out of three older adults will suffer at least one fall each year, only half of those injured are likely to inform their healthcare provider or have their injuries assessed. Fall injuries in 2013 resulted in:
- 2.5 million older adults seeking treatment in emergency departments for non-fatal fall injuries
- 734,000 older adults being hospitalized for fall injuries
- An estimated $34 billion being spent on direct medical costs related to falls among older adults
- 25,500 older adults losing their lives in unintentional fall accidents
Individuals 75 and older are between four and five times more likely to require long-term care following a fall than those fall victims between the ages of 65 and 74.
Who May Be Liable in Slip and Fall Accidents
Elderly slip and fall accidents are often caused as a result of property owners failing to maintain or keep their property and premises safe, negligent or abusive nursing home staff, dangerous walkways or driveways left covered with ice or snow by careless homeowners, and uneven surfaces which have been left unrepaired by municipalities or counties. Any party whose negligence has left an older adult suffering serious or fatal injuries could be held liable in a slip and fall accident.
How to Prove Claims of Negligence
Proving negligence after a slip and fall accident is not necessarily simple. A victim must be able to produce evidence showing the property owner, homeowner, business owner, nursing home owner or manager or other party was aware of the potentially hazardous situation (or should have been reasonably aware), and failed to take action to remedy it in a timely manner.
Property owners who fail to act in a reasonably prudent manner to safeguards visitors, residents or invited guests are considered to be negligent by law and can be held liable for damages caused in a slip and fall accident.
Important factors to consider when proving claims of negligence include:
- Did the hazardous condition exist long enough that a reasonable property owner would have been made aware of the situation?
- Did the hazardous condition exist long enough that action could have been taken to eliminate the risk of injury?
- Were policies in place to prevent such hazards from going unnoticed or unaddressed?
- What standards did the property owner enforce in terms of routine maintenance and repairs?
- Could the danger posed by the hazardous condition have been minimized if preventative measures were taken?
West Virginia is a comparative negligence state. This means victims are required to prove they were not at fault for their own injuries. In cases where a victim is partially at fault for the injuries sustained in a slip and fall accident, the awarded damages will be reduced by the victim's determined percentage of liability.
How Elderly Victims Can Get the Medical Help and Attention They Need Following a Slip and Fall Accident
If you are an older adult who has been injured in a slip and fall accident, or you are responsible for the care of an elderly slip and fall accident victim, you may be wondering how to move forward with your claim. The first step, if possible, is to file an incident report with the property or business owner.
The next step should be to see your doctor or go to the local emergency room to get the medical help you need. You should then hire a skilled personal injury attorney. Having experienced legal representation on your side could dramatically improve your chances recovering a fair level of compensatory damages for your case. An attorney can also provide help if you run into any difficulties getting medical care.