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Trip & Fall Injuries: It’s All About the Surface

Posted by Scot D. Goldberg | Jun 11, 2019 | 0 Comments

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One of the types of personal injury cases we help people with is what is known as a “trip and fall” injury, which can be a little different than a “slip and fall”, a term that may be more familiar to you. We have had many clients who came to us because they suffered a serious injury as the result of tripping and falling on a surface that was not designed, built or maintained to the correct industry standards.

As in just about every industry, there are prescribed standards developed to be utilized by engineers, manufacturers, architects, building and construction entities to ensure that there is a uniformity to things like sidewalks, stairs, and other surfaces where people will be walking. Trip and fall injury cases almost always involve researching and defining those standards in our efforts to determine if the surface in question was in any way not up to the recognized standards.

An organization called the American Society for Testing and Materials, better known as ASTM International. In operation for 115 years, this organization develops a huge range of consensus standards which are then used around the world and in many industries.   From children's toys to aircraft design, ASTM standards are exacting and complex guidelines by which consumer safety is enhanced and product quality is improved.

The ASTM has developed standards governing surfaces intended to provide uniform requirements by which walking surfaces are designed and built. If you are an engineer, these published papers would likely make for some fascinating reading.  But as personal injury lawyers, our job, along with the help of skilled engineers and accident reconstructionists that we hire in some cases, is to drill down into the information to find out what happened – how did our client trip and fall, and was the surface in any way responsible?

We know that not every trip and fall or slip and fall is the fault of a defective or sub-standard surface. In fact, we wrote about it here. But, in the event you're injured as the result of a surface that was below recognized standards, we get to work figuring out just who should be held accountable for your injuries.

Have you ever tripped on something, then immediately turned around to look at what made you trip? That's human nature – to try and figure out what happened. We have represented multiple clients who have tripped because of a sidewalk or walkway that was uneven in height, creating a raised “lip” or edge that should not have been there. Had the surface of the sidewalk been engineered and maintained properly, that lip would not have been there, and the client would not have fallen. Once we've determined how the trip and fall happened, we then undertake discovering who was responsible. Was the sidewalk not installed correctly? Did the party responsible for maintaining the sidewalk not fix it in a timely manner? Were they even aware that there was a potentially dangerous situation that could result in someone getting hurt?

Those details are just a small part of what we investigate as attorneys helping someone who has tripped and fallen.

There is a LOT of technical, engineering data in each of the ASTM papers, but here are some take-aways from their standards on:

Floor and Ground Surfaces

  • Walkway surfaces shall be slip resistant under expected environmental conditions and use.
  • Painted walkways shall contain an abrasive additive, cross-cut grooving, texturing or other appropriate means to render the surface slip resistant where wet conditions are reasonably foreseeable.
  • Adjoining walkway surfaces shall be made flush and fair whenever possible.
  • Changes in levels greater than ¼ inch and less than ½ inch must be beveled with a slope no greater than 1 to 2 as relates to the rise and run of the surface.
  • Changes in levels greater than ½ inch are to be transitioned by means of a ramp or stairway that complies to local building codes.
  • Exterior walkway conditions that may be considered substandard and in need of repair include pavement that is broken, depressed, raised, undermined, slippery, uneven or cracked to the extent that the pieces can be readily moved.

Carpeting

  • Carpet shall be maintained so as not to create a pedestrian hazard.
  • Carpet on floor surfaces shall be routinely inspected.
  • Mats, runners or other means of ensuring that building entrances and walkways are kept dry during inclement weather should be utilized.

Parking Lots

  • Parking lots should be designed to avoid the use of wheel stops.
  • Wheel stops shall not be placed in pedestrian walkways or foreseeable pedestrian paths.
  • Adequate illumination shall be maintained at wheel stops per the requirements of local building codes.

There is another agency that is part of the U.S. Government that deals with standards and requirements for the Americans with Disability Act, or ADA. The U.S. Access Board publishes a Technical Guide that outlines their standards as relates to the proper requirements of surfaces to be used by people in wheelchairs or mobility scooter, using a walker, crutches or cane, or other form of mobility assistance.

Some guidelines from that publication include:

  • Accessible floor and ground surfaces must be stable, firm and slip resistant.
  • Avoid materials that result in uneven surfaces, like cobblestones, pavers or bricks.
  • Maximum carpet pile height is to be ½ inch as measured from the backing of the carpeting.
  • Carpeting must be securely attached so as not to buckle, fold or shift under wheelchair traffic.
  • Exposed carpet edges must be secured or fastened to prevent curling or lifting.
  • Openings in floor surfaces, like grates, drains or vents, must be no wider than ½ inch.
  • Openings in grates must be oriented so that the longest dimension is perpendicular to the dominant direction of travel

Trip and Fall Injury Types

Goldberg Noone personal injury attorneys have worked on cases of trip and falls in which our clients have suffered a variety of serious injuries. Some of those include:

  • Fractured kneecaps
  • Broken ankles
  • Broken wrists, fingers and elbows
  • Torn rotator cuff
  • Facial fractures, cuts and abrasions
  • Dental fractures
  • Broken jawbone
  • Fractured ribs

Do I Need an Attorney for a Trip and Fall Injury?

There is no simple answer to this question, but there is good news – it only takes one phone call to find out. If you were hurt due to tripping and falling on a sidewalk, store entrance, parking lot wheel stop, or other situation where you feel the surface may have had something to do with it, just call us at 239-461-5508. Or, you can fill out this easy form, and one of our trip and fall attorneys will contact you immediately.

We'll gladly speak to you about your specific circumstances to help you make informed decisions about financial compensation for your injuries. Our law firm has handled hundreds of trip and fall cases over the twenty years we've been here in Southwest Florida, and we know how to determine liability, and how to hold the people or businesses responsible.

It's really pretty simple; For example, if a property owner is found to have prior knowledge of an uneven or broken slab of concrete in their walkway yet did nothing to correct the problem, should they be held accountable in paying for your medical care?

We think they should.

About the Author

Scot D. Goldberg

Scot Goldberg is a founding partner of the Goldberg Law Firm. See his attorney profile for more information.

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