Lax Maintenance Leads to Most Outdoor Slip and Fall Accidents

Some slip and fall accidents can’t be prevented.  But most can.

A lot of people think about slip and fall accidents in terms of snow and ice on the ground.  Snow and ice are slippery.  But in most cases pedestrians are “on guard” and can see the hazard.

I think that wet concrete (particularly wet concrete with exposed aggregate) is more dangerous than snow and ice when it comes to outdoor slip and fall accidents.

Cement mixed with just sand has a high coefficient of friction.  When it’s mixed with aggregate—and the hosed off to expose the aggregate—it starts to get slippery when it’s wet.

But the real problem comes when moss and algae are allowed to grow on it.  I was at our girls’ school yesterday.  There were clogged gutters and moss two inches high on the edges of the sidewalks.  The grounds were a mess.  But the real hazard wasn’t the moss that was two inches high at the edge of the sidewalk.  The real hazard was the microlayer of moss and algae in the middle of the sidewalks and on the stairs.  It was the most serious hazard because it was hard to see and couldn’t be avoided.

I was clued-in and careful walking them to their classrooms.  We just finished a case involving the same kinds of hazards:

We represented a client who fell outside a condominium complex in Bellevue.  She had on sensible boots with lugged traction soles.  But as she walked down the exterior stairs she slipped and fell.  At first the insurance company for the complex pushed back.  But when we showed a close-up of the moss and algae on the nose of the stair where she fell it paid a settlement just south of $100,000.

Every big box hardware store sells moss and algae killer.  It’s easy to apply.

If you don’t have any, diluted bleach kills moss and algae too.

Under Washington law property owners are responsible for maintaining reasonably safe walking surfaces.  Outdoor stairs and walkways need to be slip resistant.  If you have a slip and fall outside—even if it’s not snowy or icy—consider having an attorney look into it and determining whether someone else might be responsible for your damages.

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