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The Science Behind Slip and Fall Accidents


When someone falls on an object or on a substance, it seems like every case is about the same: there was something on the floor, you stepped on it, and you fell. But there is actually a pretty interesting science behind falls, and it turns out, not all falls are the same, and a multitude of factors can contribute to both your fall, and to the severity of your fall.

Types of Slips

You actually fall more often than you think–although really, they are more like what are known as “microslips,” which are tiny, almost unnoticeable slips that generally involve a slip of only 1-3 centimeters. We either don’t notice these, or our bodies instinctively “catch” them and correct us before we fall.

A full slip is a loss of control of a slightly longer distance, usually up to about 10 centimeters. These, our bodies do notice, and we instinctively try to correct ourselves. Younger, more athletic, or more limber people will be able to correct themselves—but others will not, and can end up with a full blown fall to the ground.

A slide is perhaps the most dangerous; as the name implies, this involves a full blown loss of control, as our feet are sliding out from under us. Usually, the foot loses contact with the ground for greater than 10 centimeters.

A trip is actually different from any of them, because it involves an intrusive object that interrupts our foot movement, or interrupts our normal gait. The typical example of this is an object on the floor, or something protruding out into a walkway into a walking path, causing an injury.

Instability and Friction

You may not realize it but even in the natural, unobstructed course of walking, there are periods of time when your body is very unstable. In fact, by some estimates, we are potentially unstable for or during 80% of our natural walking gait.

When we encounter an object or substance that disrupts our gait during that 80%, a fall is more likely to occur—we are not stable enough to catch and correct the slippage or obstruction.

Your speed matters also-the faster you walk, the more likely you may be to fall. That isn’t just because you may be going too fast to see or observe dangers. It’s also because as you go faster, your foot is landing harder on the ground, and thus, there is less friction.

If you walk with a load in hand—be it a package, a baby, or anything else you may tend to carry while walking—you are also at greater risk, for the same reason as walking fast—the extra weight puts more “force” on your shoes as they contact the ground, making it more likely that they will lose grip, lose friction, and slip.

Mind you that we normally walk (or even run) just fine—almost none of these factors would cause someone otherwise healthy to just fall. It’s when we encounter objects or substances on the ground that the danger of falls happens.

Call the Knoxville personal injury attorneys at Fox Farley Willis & Burnette, PLLC, to make sure your injury case is handled the way it should be handled.




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