According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls due to slipping and tripping accidents are the leading cause of injuries in retail stores, workplaces, and private residences nationwide. More than 1 million people are admitted to emergency departments each year for injuries they sustained during a slip and fall accident, costing Americans more than $34 billion annually.
While we may often associate slip and fall accidents with bruises, cuts, and broken bones, some falls can also cause serious trauma to the brain. Traumatic Brain Injuries, or TBIs, are among the most serious potential consequences of trips and falls. Ranging from mild to severe, TBIs can result in physical debilitation and emotional strain for victims and their families, as well as financial hardship as they deal with the aftermath of their injuries.
If you’ve suffered a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) caused by a slip and fall incident, contact the personal injury team at Berry Law. You may be eligible to receive compensation. Damages for slip and fall personal injury lawsuits may include compensation for medical bills, rehabilitation costs, and private nursing care, as well as lost wages, lost future earnings, and pain and suffering.
What Is A Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?
Fluid surrounds the brain as it rests inside of the cranial cavity and serves as a cushion to protect it from hitting the hard surface of the inside of the skull. Traumatic brain injuries occur when the body experiences a jarring motion or a violent strike or blow to the head that causes reverberations inside of the skull. Often, the outcome is that the brain is violently jostled, resulting in bruising and bleeding of the brain.
TBIs are most commonly associated with car accidents, but they can also occur when the head strikes a hard surface like a floor or a piece of furniture on the way down during a fall. TBIs also happen following penetration of the skull with a sharp or blunt object that enters the brain tissue, causing trauma to the brain.
More people are familiar with concussions, which are a milder form of TBI. Falls are among the leading cause of both concussions and TBIs, accounting for almost half of all TBI-related emergency room visits and resulting in 235,000 hospitalizations each year. That is 20 times the number of hospitalizations for spinal cord injuries.
TBIs can be life-altering and are sometimes fatal. Somewhere between 80,000 and 90,000 people each year experience long-term or life-long disability due to a TBI.
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What Are the Symptoms Of TBI?
Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury vary significantly depending on the nature and severity of the accident and the overall general health of the victim. Some common symptoms include:
- Confusion and memory loss
- Reduced mental capacity and concentration
- A loss of consciousness that can last for a few seconds or minutes
- No loss of consciousness at all
- Feeling dazed, disoriented or confused
- Dizziness and loss of balance
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fatigue or drowsiness
- Debilitating headaches or migraines, especially those that worsen over time
- Disruptions to speech and fine and large motor skills, such as slurred speech or a loss of coordination
- Difficulty sleeping or an excessive need to sleep, including an inability to awaken
- Numbness in fingers and toes
- Other serious health outcomes
Some individuals also experience sensory issues like blurred vision, ringing in the ears, a bad taste in the mouth, and sensitivity to light and sound. Additionally, TBIs can impact mental health, with some people undergoing a drastic change in personality following a brain injury. Psychiatric symptoms may include:
- Problems concentrating
- Changes in behavior
- Mood swings
Some studies suggest that Traumatic Brain Injury may be linked to an increased risk of suicide as well. These symptoms may only occur immediately following an accident, or they can be life-long. TBIs can lead to strokes and even death in some cases. Nearly 700 fatalities each year can be traced back to slip and fall accidents, many of them in the elderly, who are most susceptible to fractures and other serious injuries.
What Is The treatment for a TBI?
TBIs can result in thousands of dollars in medical debt, as well as permanent disability, depending on the severity. In some cases, patients require full-time care and are unable to return to work in their previous occupation after a TBI.
Treatment varies greatly. Mild TBIs like a concussion may only require a patient to rest and use over-the-counter pain medication to manage symptoms. A mild concussion usually resolves itself within seven to 10 days. A more serious head injury may require much more extensive treatment and longer recovery times.
The use of diagnostic imaging like CTs and MRIs can allow doctors to visualize injuries to the brain and develop a treatment plan, which could include hospitalization, surgery to treat the effects of contusions and/or bruises in the brain tissue or ruptured blood vessels, prescription medication, and extensive therapy to retrain the brain.
Since the brain controls things like fine and large motor skills and speech, occupational and/or physical therapy and speech and language therapy may be necessary to relearn basic skills like how to use silverware, walk, or speak again. In situations where behavioral changes and mental health are concerns, psychiatric treatment may also be recommended.
What Contributes to TBI-Related Slip and Fall Accidents?
Slip and fall accidents that result in TBIs can occur just about anywhere, but they are most common in grocery and retail stores, offices and bank buildings, restaurants, theaters, schools and daycare centers, garages and auto repair shops, hospitals and medical offices, and nursing homes and retirement communities.
The most common reason for slip and fall accidents is wet floors that are caused by spills and leaks. Other contributing factors include:
- Slick floors due to oil or grease build up
- Uneven walking surfaces from cracked sidewalks or loose floorboards, carpeting, or mats
- Clutter and debris
- Loose electrical cords and wires
- Weather-related hazards like snow and ice
- Poor lighting
- Stairwell accidents
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Prevention of Slip and Fall Accidents
These types of accidents are largely preventable. Spills and other hazards should be reported and removed as soon as they are discovered. Property owners should also take care to avoid allowing grease to accumulate on walking surfaces in kitchens and garages.
Another preventative measure is keeping walkways, stairways, lobbies, and storerooms free from tripping hazards and debris. Leave ample space for walkways between furniture, equipment and store displays, and check to ensure that floor mats and rugs lay flat against the floor without bunching or wrinkling.
Secure loose electrical cords and wires to the floor or wall. Install handrails on all staircases and ramps and be sure that they are properly maintained, replacing or repairing loose rails or floorboards as needed.
Remove snow and ice accumulation from sidewalks, steps, and parking lots before allowing customers, guests, or employees to walk on them.
Liability In TBI-Related Accidents
Employers and property owners have an obligation to the safety of their customers, employees, and guests. By inviting others onto their property, they accept the responsibility of ensuring their property is safe for invited guests. Premises liability is the failure of a property owner to maintain the appropriate safety standards necessary to keep guests safe from injury. All property and business owners should carry premises liability insurance as part of their homeowners or business insurance coverage package.
The vast majority of slip and fall accidents are due to negligence, or failure to take the proper steps or care to prevent reasonable danger. Someone else’s negligent behavior can quickly add up into the hundreds of thousands of dollars in treatment costs, leaving victims and their families with overwhelming medical debt and lost wages due to the need to take time off to go to the doctor.
Since it’s in their best interest to avoid large liability payouts, insurance companies and property owners may try to convince victims of a slip and fall accident that the incident and resulting injuries were due to the victim’s own carelessness or clumsiness.
You may have the right to be compensated for the TBI you sustained and any financial costs you’ve accrued due to a slip and fall accident that was caused by another person or business’ negligence. Pursuing a personal injury lawsuit may be the only course of action you have for recovering your losses and avoiding further debt. Depending on where your injury occurred, you may be able to pursue a claim to be fully compensated by a worker’s compensation policy or a business or homeowner’s personal property insurance.
Liability for any accident requires establishment of facts, including the name of the party responsible for damages and a demonstration that he or she should have known about a hazard and corrected it in a timely manner.
In order to win a slip and fall lawsuit, a plaintiff and his or her legal team must prove the following:
- The property owner had a duty of care toward the injured party.
- He or she breached that duty of care because they either caused or knew about the dangerous condition and failed to act or because they should have known about it if they had exercised care by doing routine inspections of the property.
- That breach of care caused the victims’ injuries. A plaintiff must be able to show that the danger presented a foreseeable and unreasonable risk to a person on the property that the injured party could not have reasonably anticipated. For example, when you go ice skating, most reasonable people accept the risk that they may fall while participating. However, a sidewalk defect obscured by a rug, for example, is not anticipated.
- The injuries resulted in damages.
A preliminary investigation by your legal team can help to establish these facts.
What Steps Should I Take Following A Slip And Fall That Resulted In A Head Injury?
The collection of evidence is crucial in a slip and fall personal injury lawsuit. It’s important to seek medical attention immediately following any accident that results in a blow to the head. In addition to establishing liability, receiving treatment for a brain injury right after it occurs can prevent additional complications from developing later.
Since TBIs are known for causing delayed symptoms, a patient may feel completely fine and then find out later that seeking care could have lessened the severity of their symptoms and led to a better overall outcome. Even seemingly small falls can cause serious injury that may not result in symptoms until much later, so it may be wise to see a doctor any time there is a potential head injury.
Keep all receipts, medical records, and any other documentation related to your fall and the injuries you sustained as a result. File an accident report with the appropriate party to notify them that you’ve been injured, and if possible, take photos of the scene of your slip and fall accident. Take extra care to document any hazards that may have contributed to your fall, including puddles, leaks, or loose cords.
Collect the names and contact information of witnesses at the scene and preserve the shoes you were wearing at the time of the accident for evidence. Document any conversations, texts, and emails exchanged with interested parties, including the property owner and insurance representatives. Be careful never to admit fault or make statements that might insinuate fault on your part if that is not an accurate version of exactly what happened. Most importantly, meet with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case.