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Do you know just how dangerous falls can be?

When it comes to falls, people often think of them as embarrassing or perhaps even amusing incidents worthy of their own viral videos. It's important to realize, however, that falls in any setting from a store or park to a school or home can cause very serious personal injuries or worse.

If you are skeptical, consider the following statistics:

  • Falls are recognized as one of the primary causes of unintentional injuries in the nation and, as recently as 2011, accounted for 8.9 million visits to the emergency room.
  • Falls accounted for over 25,000 deaths in 2009 alone, making them the second-leading cause of unintentional fatalities in homes and communities.     

In light of the dangers posed by falls, today's post will focus on what homeowners must do to make sure their dwellings are safe for guests.

What legal duty do homeowners have to social guests, repair people and others who are invited to enter their home?

In general, the law dictates that homeowners have a duty to take reasonable precautions to prevent harm to those invited onto the premises (i.e., take care of the property) and to warn them of foreseeable hazards.

Are there certain areas to which homeowners should pay special attention and around which guests should be especially careful because of an elevated fall risk?

According to the National Safety Council, areas of the home that could prove to be potentially dangerous include doorways, stairs, hallways (especially when cluttered), areas prone to spills and uneven surfaces.

Are there steps homeowners can -- and likely should -- take to help prevent falls?

Yes, there are certain reasonable steps that homeowners can take to mitigate fall risks, including promptly cleaning up any type of liquid spill, using non-skid mats under throw rugs or removing them altogether, making sure walkways in both rooms and hallways are open and clear of debris, keeping cords tucked away, installing handrails on all staircases and using adequate lighting.

Above all else, it's important to remember that if you suffered serious personal injuries in a fall or because of the general negligence of a homeowner that you may be able to hold them accountable, and that an experienced legal professional can outline your options moving forward.

Source: National Safety Council, "Slips, trips and falls," Accessed Oct. 2, 2014

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