Slip and Fall Claims

A large number of people are injured every year in the United States due to falls in public places.  The majority of these falls are classified as “Slip and Fall” accidents.

 

The determination of the cause of such accidents is a complex undertaking and involves a large number of variables. 

 

One of the variables is a property known as the coefficient of friction between two surfaces.  In the case of a person walking, this is the determination of the resistance to slipping between the shoe or other foot covering and the surface on which the person is walking. 

 

There are several methods of measuring the coefficient friction.  The methods range from simple friction sled methods to highly technical measuring devises to determine the static coefficient of friction (SCOF).  VCE uses both in investigations of slip and fall accidents.

 

 

The SCOF of a surface is generally reported as a value from 0.00 to 1.0, the slipperiest being at the low end of the scale, and the more slip free, near the 1.0 value.

 

In the case of sidewalks, floors or other walking surfaces, it is generally accepted that SCOF values of 0.50 and above do not present a slip and fall hazard and values below 0.50 are slip and fall hazards.  American’s With Disability Act requires that a level walking surface have a SCOF of 0.6 or greater and a handicap ramp has a SCOF of greater than 0.80.

 

Contamination of the walking surface or shoe soles is often the cause of Slip and Fall accidents.  Either type contamination can greatly reduce the effective coefficient of friction.  In the case of the walking surface, spills such as grease, water, etc. are usually quite apparent, however, contamination of a person’s shoes can be less obvious. 

 

It is important that the Adjuster determines, if possible, the actions of the fall victim immediately prior to the accident.  This Investigator has worked on cases where there was confusion as to whether the victim was actually entering or leaving a building or coming or going to a table in a restaurant when the fall occurred.  Obviously, the source of potential shoe contamination is important in the determination of fault.

 

Herb Stewart

 

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