Falls and Brain Injuries
Falls, trips and slips are the cause of just over 20% of all UK hospital admissions for traumatic brain injury, secondly only to road traffic accidents. They are also the leading cause of traumatic brain injury to those over 65 years. Falls most frequently happen at home, the workplace, on a pavement, road or on other property (shops, restaurants, cafes etc). Falls can happen to anyone, at any time and quite frequently will not be anyone’s fault. But when a fall happens as a result of the failure to keep the floor or ground safe, a claim can be brought for injuries and financial losses.
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Falls on pavements, roads and other public places
The local authority will usually have a legal duty to maintain the roads, pavements and other public places. This duty means that the local authority must take reasonable steps to ensure that the roads and pavements are free of hazards that might cause an injury. Common causes of trips and falls include raised paving slabs, uneven kerb-stones, potholes and objects protruding from the pavement (eg. tree roots). The local authority also has a duty to take adequate steps to keep busy roads and pavements free of ice and snow in winter.
In most cases, the fall may result in cuts and bruises or perhaps a broken bone. More significant injuries can arise when the person has not had an opportunity to break their fall causing them to strike their head on the ground or another object. Even when the symptoms initially appear mild, such as a slight headache, dizziness or nausea, it is vital to closely observe for signs of worsening symptoms and a more serious brain injury. The consequences can be devastating if this is not detected. Treating doctors will observe for signs and provide appropriate advice.
Falls in the workplace
Slips and trips are the most common cause of injury in the workplace. They are the source of approximately 40% of all serious injuries at work. The consequences can be particularly serious when the employee is working at height, or works in a position that would mean a serious injury is likely as a result of falling. Falling near machinery or a vehicle can be particularly dangerous.
Specific regulations are in place to legally protect workers whose job involves working at height, or on construction sites and where there is a risk of falling.
The law provides employees with protection by placing a duty on employers to take various measures to ensure the health and safety of their employees. If an employer has failed to comply with their legal requirements and as a result has caused the employee to suffer an injury, there are grounds for a compensation claim. Common causes of falls in the workplace include:
- Slipping on spillages left by colleagues or machinery/equipment.
- Tripping due to an object being left on the workplace floor.
- Falls due unsafe equipment, most commonly ladders or scaffolding.
- Being struck by an object during the course of your work.
Other factors that need to be taken into account include the need for the employer to provide appropriate footwear, lighting and a suitable floor surface in the workplace. Failure to provide necessary safety equipment, such as a hard hat, may result in the employer being legally liable for any injuries. The employer must take steps to monitor potential hazards and ensure the workplace is safe.
Falls, trips and slips in shops and other premises
The law provides protection to visitors to other property. This places a duty on the “occupier” of the property, usually the owner, to take reasonable measures to protect visitors from injury and harm.
Accidents frequently happen in shops and supermarkets, most often as a result of dropped produce on the floor, a liquid spillage or the build-up of rainwater. Shops and supermarkets have an obligation to take steps to regularly check the floor surfaces to minimise the risk of injury as far as reasonably possible. Other places where accidents regularly happen as a result of fault of the occupier include:
- Car parks
- Playgrounds and parks
- School and colleges
- Social clubs and nightclubs
- Holiday parks
- Garages/petrol stations.
As with accidents at work and in public places, it is necessary to prove that the party legally responsible for the accident site was at fault for the fall, trip or slip.
All falling injuries come with a risk of head injury due to the danger of the head striking the ground or another object. Children are particularly at risk of head injury, with between 40% and 50% of people with head injuries being children. The vast majority of head injuries are minor but studies show that approximately one in seven people still experience symptoms 6 weeks after a minor head injury.