Slip and Fall Accident Analysis Part 1 / Potential Causes (Exterior Areas)

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Introduction: Most people would probably think that car accidents are the largest class or cause of personal injuries. However, the Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that accidental falls account for more hospital visits each year than any other accidental cause. Falls are also the leading cause of unintentional death for individuals age 65 and older, with 11,000 deaths occurring annually.

Malls and places like churches are at high risk simply because of the large volume of people who frequent them on a daily basis. With this large volume of traffic, a property owner must take care to properly maintain its walking surfaces to prevent slips, trips and falls. Public property typically contains numerous safety issues due to a combination of different types of walking surfaces, including sidewalks, parking lots, driveways, entrances and exits, interior flooring surfaces, lighting, and other walking surface hazards. These interior risks will be discussed in Part 2 to follow.


Due to the number of people coming and going on a daily basis, sidewalk maintenance is crucial in preventing slip and fall injuries. Many owners of public property underestimate how common, severe and costly falls can be.

In the aftermath of any slip and fall event one must look to see if there were regular periodic inspections of the sidewalks. If any substandard conditions were discovered, or noted, were they corrected as soon as possible or warned of? Was any such warning sufficient?

When inspecting the scene of a slip and fall consider the following items. Are the sidewalks generally in good condition and free of cracks or potholes. If there are cracks in sidewalks are greater than ¼ inch, this can create a trip hazard and if known of, should have required that repairs were made.

Surfaces which include gravel, rocks, and mud are also known to be dangerous to pedestrians who may have no other viable path of travel. Sidewalks that have depressions in the walking surface can trap water and mud and thereby create slip hazards. These areas should also be repaired.

Items placed in the path of travel, such as trash cans and garden planters and landscaping that is planted too close to sidewalks can also cause or contribute to slipping and tripping accidents if unchecked.

Vegetation can overtake the sidewalk, creating trip and fall hazards. Tree roots can cause sidewalks to heave and buckle causing serious trip and fall hazards. These areas should be identified and corrected before an accident is allowed to happen. Failure to do so could give rise to negligence and damages.

Construction operations often cause detours which create additional slip, trip and fall hazards. If you were directed to walk through a construction area; that alone could be viewed as a negligent act and create liability for the property owner.

Negligent Repairs

Inadequate patching and repairs to sidewalks can create trip and fall hazards from raised or lowered edges, depressions and changes to the surface texture. Tree roots or failure to remove them often causes severe trip hazards due to the uneven walking surface they may cause.

Parking Lots and Driveways

Due to the large number of cars parking on and people walking across public property or its parking lots, those areas can become a real liability with hazards like potholes, speed bumps, and curbs. These become even more problematic when not properly maintained.

Wheel or tire stops are now well known as a potential tripping hazard. These require maintenance as they are constantly exposed to damage from vehicles. If a tire stop caused your trip and fall, check to see if they were taller than 6.5 inches or whether there was at least three feet between wheel stops and that they did not extend beyond the width of the wheels. If any of these conditions existed the property owner may be liable. Check to see if they marked with a contrasting color such as yellow? Were they anchored? Take careful note of the area before the scene is altered.

Speed Bumps

Speed bumps also present a tripping hazard. They are also known to break down quicker from being exposed to the weather and vehicles driving them. This will compound the slip and fall exposure. If you fell on a speed bump determine whether there were any “Speed Bump” signs installed to give warning of their presence?


This article just scrapes the surface of the issues presented by dangerous conditions of public property and the issues specific to slip, trip and fall cases.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Evan A. Gould, Esq., Hollander & Gould, LLP
If you have been injured in a slip or trip and fall on public property you need an advocate who is experienced with these issues and can quickly determine whether you have a case and who can help you find a means of recovery for your injuries and damages. The injury attorneys at Hollander & Gould can help you answer any questions you have regarding your case and have helped thousands recover compensation for their personal injuries. We are here to help.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.