Are You Covered By Workers' Compensation If You Fall at Work?

         Don't fall victim to the "There Ain't Nothing Wrong With the Floor" defense. If you trip over an object on the floor at work and fall, you are almost certain to be covered by the workers’ compensation laws.  But what happens if you simply fall at work on a completely level floor or on a smooth rug and there is no obvious cause for your fall?  What if your employer responds that you can not get workers’ compensation benefits because “there ain’t nothing wrong with the floor” to have caused you to fall?  Is the employer right?

Let’s look at three different scenarios:
Situation 1
 
Assume that my paralegal, Ashley, is walking down the hallway at our office with a hand full of files and trips over a magazine that had been inadvertently dropped on the floor by a client.  Is she covered under our workers' compensation laws?
 
Yes, she is covered because she suffered an injury by accident at work during the course and scope of her employment.  Since the workers’ compensation system is a “no fault” system, it doesn’t matter whether Ashley could have avoided that accident because fault is irrelevant in a workers’ compensation claim. 
 
Situation 2
 
Let’s now assume that Ashley is walking down the hallway at our office with a hand full of files and loses her balance and falls for no apparent reason.  There was nothing specifically on the floor that had caused her to fall.  Is she covered under our workers’ compensation laws?
 
Yes, she needs only to prove a causal connection between the conditions under which the work is required to be performed and the resulting injury.  The fact that Ashley suffered an “unexplained fall” does not preclude her from being covered by workers’ compensation.  There does not have to be some work hazard on the floor causing the employee to fall in order for there to be workers’ compensation coverage.  Instead, she again only needs to prove that she was injured during the course and scope of her employment.  It is no defense for the employer to deny coverage because  “there ain’t nothing wrong with the floor” to have caused you to fall.
 
Situation 3
 
Let’s assume that Ashley has a bad knee which has bothered her for years.  As she is walking down the hall with a hand full of files, her bad knee simply gives away and she falls.  There was nothing on the floor that had cause her to fall.  As she was being helped up from the floor by her co-workers, Ashley responded that “my knee just gave away.”  Is she covered under our workers’ compensation laws?
 
No, in this case Ashley would be determined to have suffered an “idiopathic fall.”  That is a fall caused solely by an inherent medical condition (the bad knee) or weakness which is specific to Ashley.  An “idiopathic fall” is much different than the “unexplained fall” described above in Situation 2.  In an “idiopathic fall” the burden of proof is on the employer to establish that the fall was caused solely by Ashley’s inherent medical condition.  It will be easy for the employer to prove that Ashley’s fall was idiopathic because she admitted it when she told her co-workers that “my knee just gave away.”  A fall caused by fainting is also an example of an idiopathic fall.
 
The Moral of the Story
 
If you suffer a fall at work, you will be covered by workers’ compensation if a specific work hazard (like water on the floor or an object on the floor) causes you to fall or if your fall is simply unexplained.  The only way you lose is if the employer can prove that your “unexplained fall” was actually an “idiopathic fall” in that it was caused solely by your inherent medical condition, which had nothing at all to do with your work or work environment.  Therefore, if you do have the misfortune of falling at work, by all means tell the truth to your employer as to what happened but don’t carelessly make a statement in the midst of your natural embarrassment that you fell because your bad knee gave away (unless that is in fact what happened)!
 
If you fall at work and have questions regarding your claim, please do not hesitate to contact Ernie Trammell at Trammell & Mills Law Firm, LLC.   Ernie Trammell has been a practicing law for 32 years and has focused the last 15 years of his practice solely on representing injured workers in workers’ compensation claims in South Carolina and Georgia

 

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Slip, Trip, Twist, Spin, or Fall Law in South Carolina

When you slip and  fall on someone else's property, this is commonly referred to as premises liability. These cases are typically more complex and difficult to resolve than a motor vehicle collision. The reason for this is just because you fall on someone else's property does not mean they are responsible for the injuries you incur. The law is very specific in South Carolina and determining the factors surrounding your slip, trip, twist, spin, wrench, slide, unintended dance move, and/or fall is paramount to determining if you have a case.

I hate to do this but I will let you all in on a little secret...come closer:

Regardless of the circumstances of your fall, more than 80% (Eighty percent) of the time, a corporate landowner will deny, or disclaim, liability for your fall on their property!  --Trey Mills

Why is this, you think? It's very simple and what I call the Cost Benefits Analysis. If a corporate entity through their insurance company denies liability on 80 people out of 100, the 80 percent they scare away saves them millions of dollars in comparison to the 20 people that stood up and fought.

I like to fight for the 20% but would rather that percentage of people increase to not be run off by negligent property owners that knowingly attract people to their property to spend money but don't want to take the time to make safe the premises or warn their patrons of any dangerous conditions on the property.

The Cliff Notes version of the law is this:

To have a viable premises liability claim from a slip, trip, and/or fall on someone else's property, the property owner must have created a dangerous condition, have actual notice (knew) of a dangerous condition, and/or constructive notice (should have known) of the dangerous condition and failed to warn patrons or make safe the area or hazard.

Cases I have turned down recently consist of the following:

  • Roofer power washing a tin roof for a customer slips and falls from the roof breaking his foot; (Nobody else's fault but his own-accidents happen.)
  • Lady slipped in convenience store on water. (No one knew how the water got there including my client. Landowner had no actual or constructive notice of the water. Roof did not appear to have a leak and no nearby coolers.)
  • Gentleman tripped over "something" walking into a store. (He didn't know what he tripped over, there were no issues with the threshold, and video of the incident indicated he simply tripped. Thus not landowners fault he tripped.)

Cases I have taken recently consist of the following:

  • Roots from a nearby tree growing up throughout a parking lot at a restaurant  causing injury to my client. (Landowner knew or should have known the roots were causing a dangerous condition as they do not just grow up through the pavement in one night.);
  • Spilled milk in a grocery store causing my client to fall. (Grocery store did not follow protocol and knew the spill was there but failed to make safe the area or warn their patrons.);
  • A one inch "lip" formed between the sidewalk and a recently repaved parking lot at a shopping mall that appears flush, or even, to patrons walking towards it. (Created a dangerous condition.)
  • Before that same mall repaved their parking lot, client injured as a result of potholes. (Knew or should have known of the dangerous condition as potholes don't form over night. )

 

Every case is different and presents a separate set of facts leading to the injury. We are always available to review your  slip, trip, twist, spin, wrench, slide, unintended dance move, and/or fall. Your consultation is free and we do not receive any payment unless we successfully resolve your case through settlement or verdict. Please give us a call at 864-231-7171, check us out on Facebook, or email us.

 I have covered this issue with more detailed links to the law and language as indicated below.

Related Articles:

South Carolina Slip and Fall Law: Premises Liability

South Carolina Slip and Fall Law: When It's Nobody's Fault But Your Own

Crashes and Falls Leading Causes of Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)

When You Fall Head Over Heels, Call Trammell & Mills

When You Fall Head Over Heels, Call Trammell & Mills

We can't help you when you fall in love, or out of love, but we can help you.  What we do involves holding other individuals and companies responsible for their negligence, ignorance, or omissions that caused you harm. Yes, that really means the insurance company hiding behind the people and companies that pay for just that type of incident.  Those negligent, ignorant, or forgetful people and companies often have little to do with the decisions that make you whole again. A wide array of real world examples and some of the most common types of cases are below:

  • injured while working and not really getting straight answers from your employer or HR person;
  • another driver not paying attention and rammed their 3,000 pound hunk of metal into your only means of transportation. Now you can't move your neck or get to work;
  • a tractor trailer driver on interstate 85 nearly kill you when they were switching lanes while texting;
  • neighbor's dog get loose again and bite your child, leaving permanent scars and an infected wound;
  • finally realize you are in need of Social Security benefits and got denied;
  • can't believe a manufacturer would sell a product so dangerous;
  • slip, trip, or fall on someone's property that knew there was a problem where you fell;
  • get jumped on, beat up, called dirty names, and held without your permission until a large retailer realized you actually paid your bill.  Oops, they made a mistake;
  • something not true being written and/or said about you to others;
  • have to lay your motorcycle down because another driver didn't see you.

Those are just the top ten or more scenarios that have come into the office in the past couple months. I am sure there are more but I think you get the point. Enjoy your Valentine's Day and hopefully you never need us. HOWEVER, if you ever do, or know someone that does, just tell them to call us or visit our website.

 

Crashes and Falls Leading Causes of Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI)

Traumatic Brain Injuries are said to be the leading cause of death in South Carolinians from the ages of 1-44, per statistics from the Brain Injury Association of South Carolina. The known leading causes for TBI are said to be falls and motor vehicle collisions according to the Brain Injury Association of America

As illustrated in a recent article in The Greenville News, TBI affects a range of cognitive, behavioral, emotional and physical functions, which can include anything from problems with short-term memory, personality changes and speech impediment to lack of coordination and persistent fatigue.  As awareness of these type injuries is increasing, there are still believed to be over 60,000 South Carolinians living with traumatic brain injuries.

Rebecca Hadel was in a t-bone collision when she sustained a traumatic brain injury, along with other severe physical injuries. The Greenville News article, "Recovering, Step by Step", highlights her personal story along with information about TBI.  As Hadel states in the article:

“Brain injuries don’t ever go away...”

 

To learn more about traumatic brain injuries and the resources available, click on any of the below links: