Slip, trip, and fall accidents resulting in injury happen more often than you might imagine, whether in our home, place of work, or anywhere else. Anyone who has experienced one can assure you that they are most definitely no joke! As pointed out by the National Floor Safety Institute, slips, and falls are among the most common, serious, and expensive injuries that can happen on the job or while completing work-related activities, constituting the primary cause of days missed from work [1].

Even worse, an estimated 20—30% of people who experience a slip-and-fall will suffer moderate to severe injuries, such as bruises, hip fractures, or head injuries, sometimes even involving spine and nerve damage or traumatic brain injury. These can hinder mobility and impede independent living significantly, often adversely affecting a person’s overall ability to pursue activities of their choice for a very long time, if not permanently.

According to recent statistics published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) [2], over one million Americans suffer a slip, trip, and fall injury that requires an emergency room visit, with over 17,000 people dying in the U.S. annually because of such injuries. In fact, 27% of the 888,220 nonfatal work injuries resulting in days away from work in 2019 were related to slips, trips, and falls, accounting for 1 in 6 of all lost-time work injuries.

Tragically, even though such incidents are not the main cause of fatal occupational injuries, a considerable number of people do lose their lives due to slip-and-fall accidents at work. As published by the National Safety Council, in 2019, 880 workers died in falls, whereas 244,000 were injured badly enough to require days off of work.

Moreover, although workers in the construction industry appear to be most at risk for fatal falls from height, falls can happen anywhere, even at a “desk job”: in 2019 alone, 146 workers were killed in falls on the same level, making it obvious that one does not have to fall from a high level to suffer serious—and even fatal injuries [3].

Slip-and-Fall Accidents at the Workplace

A significant percentage of the millions of falls that happen each year in the U.S. takes place on the job or while completing work-related activities. It is estimated that approximately 8 million emergency room visits each year are because of falls, representing the leading cause of visits (21.3%). Slip-and-fall accidents account for over 1 million visits, or 12% of total falls [4].

Slips, trips, and falls arise from numerous causes: these typically include, but are not limited to, slippery or uneven surfaces, poor lighting, unsafe stairwells and handrails, dangers occurring due to lack of security, various tripping hazards, equipment malfunction, as well as various other unkempt conditions leading to improper maintenance and upkeep that may cause injuries, which can often be serious.

They are the leading cause of workers’ compensation claims, costing businesses approximately $70 billion annually. As reported by the CDC, 85% of workers’ compensation claims are attributed to employees slipping on slick floors. They account for between 12 and 15 % of all workers’ compensation expenses in the U.S, costing employers approximately $40,000 per incident [5].

Workers’ Compensation Insurance

Generally speaking, workers’ compensation insurance covers the cost of medical care and rehabilitation for those injured on the job. It also provides compensation for lost wages as well as death benefits for their dependents if they are killed in work-related accidents. Workers’ compensation systems vary from state to state, with related statutes and court decisions controlling many of their aspects, including—among others—the amount of benefits an injured worker may receive [6].

Workers’ compensation is a statutory system that operates in most states, including Colorado, and has the advantage of providing benefits to injured employees quickly. In Colorado, most people who are hired to perform services for pay are considered employees, irrespective of whether they are employed in the public or private sector, with the possible exception of gig workers [7].

Under this system, if you are a worker injured on the job, you will not have to take legal action and, unlike most personal injury claims, this is a “no-fault” system. This means that the principle of contributory negligence, setting out that your access to benefits may be reduced if you are found to have contributed to the accident that led to your injury, is not applicable. Therefore, you may be able to receive compensation even if you have somehow contributed to the cause of your accident.

Having said that, workers’ compensation is not an automatic process, so you will still have to report the incident to your employer in writing and file a related claim within a specified period of time. According to the applicable laws in Colorado, you will need to notify your employer within four days. Failing to do so will result in you losing one day of workers’ compensation for each day’s delay [8]. Correspondingly, you may file a claim for workers’ compensation within two years of the date of the injury (or, in more tragic cases, after the date of a worker’s death). This latter deadline may be extended by a judge for up to three years, allowing for the filing of a late claim.

Nevertheless, duly filing your workers’ compensation claim does not mean that you will necessarily receive the compensation requested. Most employers opt for purchasing workers’ compensation insurance from private insurance companies, so it is these companies that pay the benefits that would have otherwise been covered by the employer itself. As workers’ compensation is effectively insurance purchased by your employer, and insurance premiums increase as claims are made, you may end up discovering that your company is more concerned with protecting itself when you are hurt than looking out for your best interests. It is also not uncommon that the insurance company may try to deny benefits based on the particular circumstances of your case. Thankfully, if your claim is denied or you have a dispute with the insurance company, you have several options to address this.

As workers’ compensation procedures can be very complicated and time-consuming, requiring that you strictly adhere to applicable rules, failure to do so may result in your benefits being reduced or barred altogether. If you were hurt in a slip-and-fall accident at your place of work or while carrying out your duties, our experienced injury attorneys at Help in Colorado are here to discuss your case in detail and assist you in every way possible to let you receive appropriate recovery for your injuries.

Suing Your Employer for a Slip-and-Fall

In Colorado, employers with one or more full or part-time employees must have workers’ compensation insurance covering work-related injuries and illnesses. In exchange for this, employees are essentially called to give up their right to file a lawsuit against the employer. In other words, if you are a Colorado State employee, workers’ compensation benefits are basically your sole remedy under Colorado law, and you cannot typically sue your employer if you get injured on the job.

Nevertheless, this is not always the case, and there are certain exceptions where you could sue your employer for damages that were caused by injuries resulting from a work-related accident, thus enabling you to seek further compensation. Permitted exceptions vary from state to state, each case is obviously unique, and its individual circumstances must be taken into account and examined in detail before concluding whether you could sue your employer.

The main broad categories of cases where you might be able to file a lawsuit for a slip-and-fall at work or while carrying out work-related activities, are the following:

The Exclusive Remedy Provision Is Not Applicable in Your Case

As already mentioned, workers’ compensation coverage, also often referred to as the “exclusive remedy” available to injured workers, means that an employee’s remedies for a work-related accident leading to injury are exclusively limited to the receipt of workers’ compensation. In the State of Colorado, the exclusive remedy provision is deemed strong, so one possibility of being able to sue your employer is by convincing a judge that your case does not fall under the exclusive remedy provision.

The main scenario where this could be achieved is if you can show that your employer has chosen not to obtain workers’ compensation, while being required to do so under Colorado law. In this instance, they will not be able to rely on the protection offered by the “exclusive remedy” provision, so you may be able to sue them and attempt to gain compensation for your work-related slip-and-fall injuries. Therefore, if you can show that your employer’s intentional conduct led to your accident and subsequent injuries, you may be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit against them.

Your Employer Caused Your Injuries Intentionally

Colorado is one of the U.S. states that allow employees to take legal action against employers who appear to have engaged in exceptionally egregious conduct, leading to a slip-and-fall accident  causing injury.

For example, failure on the part of your employer to provide safety gear at a construction site may be deemed such intentional conduct, potentially enabling you to file a personal injury claim. Another possible scenario would be if the company owner has a physical confrontation with an employee or hires an employee who assaults and causes injury to another, and the employer is found to have been grossly negligent in hiring or retaining the dangerous employee in question.

Additionally, the option of suing an employer in Colorado may be available in certain cases of dual capacity, where you, in your capacity as an employee, may have a second legal relationship to your employer and have been harmed in the context of that second affiliation. For example, if your employer is also the owner of the property where your work-related slip-and-fall accident occurred and has allowed a dangerous condition there in violation of their duty as a landowner.

Even though it can be challenging to prove such a case, if you were injured due to a slip-and-fall accident that you deem was owed to your employer’s intentional conduct, it is certainly worth examining whether you might be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit against them.

Third-Party Lawsuits

Even if you find that you are unable to sue your employer directly, you may still be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit against a responsible third party who was liable for causing your work-related slip-and-fall injury, depending on the specific events of your accident.

There are myriads of cases where such circumstances may arise:  for example, you may be able to sue an inspector who failed to require a correction of a dangerous situation, such as the replacement of missing, loose or damaged handrails leading to a fall, or an employer’s landlord for failure to address an unsafe condition on the property, such as fixing potholes, uneven flooring, and so on.

Slip-and-fall accidents causing often severe injuries are clearly very common, and they occur more often than one may realize during the course of our work. Work-related injuries are primarily addressed under workers’ compensation, in a quick and often non-contentious manner, by providing money and benefits to injured workers. While you may be told that a workers’ compensation system is an exclusive remedy for receiving compensation for a slip-and-fall injury on the job, it is important to receive independent professional advice that will enable you to have a good understanding of your rights and options.

Our legal team is here to help you address any work-related injury, including slip-and-fall accidents, in absolute confidence. Contact Help in Colorado online, call us at (303) 351-2567, or visit our offices at 6795 E. Tennessee Ave. #210, Denver, CO, 80224 to discuss the details of your case and see if other options may be available to you.

References

[1] https://nfsi.org/nfsi-research/quick-facts/

[2] https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/injury/fastfacts.html

[3] https://www.nsc.org/work-safety/safety-topics/slips-trips-falls

[4] https://nfsi.org/nfsi-research/quick-facts/

[5] ibid.

[6] https://www.iii.org/article/spotlight-on-workers-compensation

[7] https://cdle.colorado.gov/employers/independent-contractors-and-coverage-exemptions

[8] https://cdle.colorado.gov/workers-compensation-act