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Even in good weather, potholes and defective sidewalks are leading causes of slip and fall accidents. Winter snows and puddles of water can hide these obstacles from view which can make them difficult to avoid. The National Floor Safety Institute estimates that walking on wet or uneven outdoor surfaces are the cause of up to 55% of all slips and falls. As such, pedestrians should use caution while walking. It’s best to avoid stepping over piles of snow, wading through shallow puddles, or across icy surfaces.
Walking to work through icy parking lots and over snow-covered sidewalks are particularly dangerous. The CDC estimates that up to 80% of slips and falls occur between the hours of 6am and noon.
Even protective measures can lead to slip and fall accidents. Sand and salt sprinkled on sidewalks and pavement reduces traction making it easier for a pedestrian to lose their footing. The risk is greater if an incline is present such as those found within parking garages.
During the winter, common obstacles such as stairs and curbs should be traversed with caution. While seemingly harmless, stairs and curbs can have a fine, clear layer of ice that low-light conditions or a dusting of snow can obscure. This makes it easy to slip off these and take a tumble.
Women are at greater risk of experiencing a slip and fall accident during the winter season than men. It is not because they are clumsier, rather it is because many women wear high heels which have less surface area and traction. The result is that it is easier for women to slip as they head into the office or out for a night on the town. Statistics gathered by the National Institutes of Health showed that women account for 57% of all slip and fall accidents.
Those most at risk are individuals who spend a considerable amount of time outside as part of their jobs. Parking lot attendants, delivery drivers, mail carriers, and emergency responders should be extra cautious as they perform their jobs. As just one example, Officer William Heelan slipped on ice in December 2009 as he was responding to an emergency call. Officer Heelan suffered serious injuries that exacerbated his osteoarthritis. This made it impossible for him to continue working as a police officer.
Wearing the proper footwear is one of the best protective measures an individual can take. The ASTM Committee on Pedestrian and Walkway Safeway estimates that when 50% or more of a shoe’s tread has worn away, it doubles the risk of having a slip and fall accident. Pedestrians who wear footwear with good tread and remain alert to conditions are at decreased risk of having a slip and fall accident.
Chicago slip and fall lawyers also recommend that pedestrians should be careful not to carry too many packages or lift heavy objects. These can alter an individual’s center of gravity and reduce their ability to recover from a fall. Additionally, people should use handrails whenever they are available. By not lifting heavy loads, and avoiding walking with hands in pockets, a person can often prevent a fall. By having hands free, they can break the fall and lessen the severity of potential injuries.
Property owners and employers can reduce the risks of slips and falls by maintaining sidewalks, stairs, and parking areas. Additionally, it is imperative for property owners to remove ice, snow, and obstructions from areas where pedestrians walk. This is important because a property owner is liable under the terms of premises liability for slips and falls that can occur if they are negligent in conducting winter maintenance tasks.
Slips and falls cause roughly 15% of all accidental deaths each year; they further account of many millions of injuries. Many of these occur during winter months when conditions create a dangerous outdoor environment. Fortunately, many injuries and deaths caused by slip and fall accidents are preventable. By taking proper precautions and remaining alert, the risk is greatly reduced.
This winter, remember that a moment of precaution is worth months, maybe even years of physical therapy. Being a little careful ensures a happy and safe holiday, and not one explaining the details of an injury with a Chicago slip and fall lawyer.