Understanding Trip & Falls

Falls are the leading cause of injury for people age 65 and older.[1]  Each year, millions of elderly citizens are injured as a result of a fall.[2]  Fall related injuries greatly affect our older population, and further impact our already strained health care system. 

Note: At Larson & Miller Law, we take on personal injury cases, so feel free to contact us today.

In 2015 alone, total medical costs for fall related injuries totaled more than $50 billion.[3]  The average hospital cost for a fall injury is over $30,000.[4]  Taxpayers ultimately incur the majority of these costs through payments made by Medicare or Medicaid, and direct out-of-pocket costs paid by the fall victims themselves.

The resulting injuries are often significant.  Over 800,000 patients a year are hospitalized because of a fall injury, most often because of a head injury or a broken bone.[5]  Falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injury (TBI).[6]  Each year at least 300,000 older Americans are hospitalized for a hip fracture,[7] and over 95% of those hip fractures are caused by a fall.[8] 

             In 2016, nearly 30,000 U.S. residents aged 65 or older died as a result of fall related injuries.[9]  That represents a 31% increase in fall related deaths since 2007.[10]  If this rate continues to rise, we can anticipate seven fall deaths every hour by 2030.[11]               

             While these figures are staggering, they are only likely to increase in the coming years as the American population ages.  It is projected that by the year 2030, the number of U.S. citizens over the age of 65 will outnumber the number of U.S. citizens under age 18.[12]  If nothing is done to stem the tide of falls, and their resulting injuries, falls will present a financial crisis in the years to come. 

             Luckily, falls are not an inevitable result of the aging process.  In fact, many falls can be prevented.  The CDC’s Injury Center has created an initiative for healthcare providers to prevent falls known as “STEADI” – Stopping Elderly Accidents, Deaths, & Injuries.  Additionally, the Americans with Disabilities Act and most local building codes have addressed the need to remove tripping hazards from commercial buildings for decades.  In addition to compliance with the minimum legal requires set forth in local building codes and the Americans with Disabilities Act all property owners must take proactive steps to remove known slip, trip, and fall hazards on their property.  If a fall is due to a property owner’s violation of a community building code, the Americans with Disabilities Act, or a failure to remedy a known dangerous condition, the high costs associated with those falls should not be passed on to the taxpaying public. 

             Below are some helpful points to help identify whether you or your love one’s fall is the responsibility of another.    

Community Building Codes

          Since as early as 1961 the American National Standard Institute (ANSI), an organization that helps draft uniform building codes for adoption in local communities, has recognized the need to remove tripping hazards such as “[s]harp inclines and abrupt changes in level.”[13]  The ANSI has since clarified that any vertical change in elevation greater than ¼ of an inch presents a tripping hazard and should be eliminated.[14]  Additionally, ANSI recognizes that stair height and tread must be uniform to prevent tripped and falling hazards. 

These are only a few examples of requirements adopted by many local governments to prevent slips, trips, and falls.  Most municipalities and many counties in the U.S. have formally adopted building codes which adopt the ANSI standards, making them mandatory requirements with which all new building must comply.  A call to your local governing body can easily identify the building codes that have been adopted in your community. 

Americans With Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law on July 26, 1990 by President George H.W. Bush.  The ADA is an expansive federal statutory and regulatory scheme.  The Act itself prohibits discrimination, which includes “a failure to remove architectural barriers…in existing facilities….”[15]  The Department of Justice has issued regulations to enforce the ADA, and has specifically stated that “[a] public accommodation shall remove architectural barriers in existing facilities…where such removal is readily achievable, i.e. easily accomplishable and able to be carried out without much difficulty or expense.”[16]  The regulations specifically provide that “[o]n or after March 15, 2012, elements in existing facilitiesmust be modified to the extent readily achievable to comply with the requirements” of the ADA.[17]  The ADA Standards require removal of any change in level greater than ¼ an inch on an accessible route. 

             The ADA Standards are important, because they apply nationwide.  Additionally, unlike local building codes that only apply to buildings constructed after the date the building codes were formally adopted, the ADA Standards apply to commercial buildings that pre-exist the enactment of the ADA. 

Removal of Known Hazards

             Property owners have an inherent responsibility to anyone coming onto its property to remove and guard against known slip, trip, and fall hazards.  For instance, many retail establishments have polished flooring, that when wet becomes a known slipping hazard.  To guard against this known hazard, some business owners adopt internal safety requirements that employees must constantly patrol the store inspecting for wet floors.  If a wet floor is discovered, an employee is to remain in the hazardous location and ask another employee to go retrieve the items necessary to remedy the situation.  Unfortunately, many property owners have no such safety rules, or fail to enforce the safety rules they have enacted.  Such situations often result in a fall and injury. 

             If you or a love one have been injured in a fall call the legal team with the experience to help make sure you get the compensation your deserve.


[1] Bergen G, Stevens MR, Burns ER. Falls and Fall Injuries Among Adults Aged ≥65 Years — United States, 2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:993–998. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6537a2external icon.    

[2] Bergen G, Stevens MR, Burns ER. Falls and Fall Injuries Among Adults Aged ≥65 Years — United States, 2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:993–998. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6537a2external icon.   

[3] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Home and Recreational Safety.  Costs of Falls Among Older Adults.  https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/fallcost.html.

[4] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Home and Recreational Safety.  Costs of Falls Among Older Adults.  https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/fallcost.html.

[5] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Home and Recreational Safety.  Important Facts about Falls.  https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html.  

[6] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Home and Recreational Safety.  Important Facts about Falls.  https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html.    

[7] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Home and Recreational Safety.  Important Facts about Falls.  https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html.   

[8] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Home and Recreational Safety.  Important Facts about Falls.  https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html.

[9] Burns E, Kakara R. Deaths from Falls Among Persons Aged ≥65 Years — United States, 2007–2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2018;67:509–514. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6718a1external icon.

[10] Burns E, Kakara R. Deaths from Falls Among Persons Aged ≥65 Years — United States, 2007–2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2018;67:509–514. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6718a1external icon.

[11] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Home and Recreational Safety.  Important Facts about Falls.  https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html.

[12] The United States Census Bureau.  Older People Projected to Outnumber Children for First Time in U.S. History.  https://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2018/cb18-41-population-projections.html

[13] American National Standard Institute, ANSI A117.1-1961, pg. 9, Section 5.3.3. 

[14] American National Standard Institute, ANSI A117.1-2009, Section 303 Changes in Level

[15] 42 U.S.C. §12182. 

[16] 28 C.F.R. § 36.304(a).

[17] 28 C.F.R. § 36.304(d)(2)(ii)(B).