Recently scientists have been studying how exactly people fall, or recover from a fall, to try to help prevent these accidents and the resulting injuries and death. As an injury attorney in Virginia (VA) handling slip and fall or premises liability cases, I was very interested in this article about what researchers are doing in the area of slips and falls as reported by the Associated Press. The problem is particularly problematic for older Americans as about one-third of U.S. citizens 65 and older fall each year according to the federal government. In 2003 for example, some 1.8 million people over 65 went to emergency rooms at hospitals after falling. Unbelievably 13,700 of these people died from falls in 2003. One thing I have learned as an experienced personal injury attorney is that a fall with an older person is more likely to result in a shattered hip or other broken bone than a similar fall to a younger person.
Two examples of famous Americans who died as a result of injuries from a fall are Kurt Vonnegut, 84, who died after falling in his home and the diet doctor, Dr. Robert Atkins who died at age 72 after slipping on icy sidewalk in 2003. Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh’s Human Movement and Balance laboratory are studying exactly how people fall and how do some people save themselves from falling. This kind of slipping research studies the small movements of the feet when reacting to a slippery spot to see how your knees and hips try to keep you from falling. From my work in the area of slip and fall negligence cases, I realize that falling isn’t only something that happens to older people. A lot of injuries occur in the workplace. Slipping is a main cause of workplace injuries according to the U.S. Department of Labor; a quarter million workers each year suffer injuries from falls that are bad enough to cause them to miss time from work. In our law firm’s work on FELA cases, on duty railroad work injuries, we see a number of cases involving slips and falls. In northern climates there are a lot of situations with ice and snow.
I recently settled a case where an Amtrak worker slipped on ice in Richmond, Virginia (VA). Ice in the southern parts of Virginia (VA) is somewhat less common than in Washington D.C., or Maryland and points north. Perhaps that makes the danger of a railroad work place accident even worse because it’s more unexpected in places like Norfolk, and Portsmouth, Virginia (VA), in Hampton Roads, where I live and have my office. Earlier this year I also successfully mediated a case for a conductor trainee on a major railroad. He tripped over the hand luggage, or “grip,” of a railroad engineer in the confined quarters of a locomotive cab compartment.
The walking surfaces on the railroad are particularly dangerous leading to injuries because you have unlevel areas mixed with debris like ballast rock where railroad workers walk, as well as lots of steep ladders on railroad cars and equipment that can be greasy or slippery. Although we all tend to laugh when we see someone trip and fall in a physical comedy routine or cartoon, slipping and falling is no joking matter. Because a trip and fall or a slip and fall injury can result in death of an older person or the end of the career of a railroad worker, it is a serious matter.
I am glad to see that serious scientists are researching the problem of falling accidents, so they can better educate older Americans, insurance companies, and rail industry managers on how to prevent these dangerous situations.