Making your Home Safe
Eliminate Lurking Dangers in Your Home
After death and injury on our nation’s roads, the home is the next most likely place for people to be unintentionally hurt or killed. In fact, the home is the site of almost 20% of all deaths from accident injury. And for every death due to injuries in the home, there are approximately 650 non-fatal injuries there. The top five leading causes of accidental death at home are falls, poisoning, fire, choking/suffocation and drowning. Many of these fatalities are preventable. Every year Americans make approximately 20 million visits to emergency rooms as a result of residential injury.
Who is the most likely to die or be hurt at home? They are among the most vulnerable members of our society: children under 5 and adults over 70. Yet most of us are inattentive to these dangers. More importantly, many of these hazards are avoidable.
Trial lawyers can appreciate the scope and tragedy of these calamities from firsthand experience. Lawyers who represent injured people receive many calls from individuals injured at home by defective products or dangerous conditions. We also hear from distraught survivors who have lost their spouse or child. We must turn away most of these folks. If the person hurt or killed was at fault in any amount (say, 1%), he would generally be banned from recovery against a landlord, builder, product manufacturer or other party – even if that entity was most negligent. North Carolina is one of three states which has decided to retain an archaic rule called “contributory negligence”. Let’s first face the fact that many home injuries and deaths are the result of inattentive parents, elderly people with limited physical abilities and, in some cases, just pure carelessness. In those instances, there is probably no “defendant”.
We can address those issues very straightforward, with such measures as, for example: not taking our eyes off a baby in the bathtub; not letting grandmother have a stairway without a handrail, or encouraging her to live on the first floor; putting grip mats and rails on tubs and showers; not providing age-inappropriate toys to kids; not watching TV while we’re cutting an onion with a butcher knife. Particularly for those who are most vulnerable – the very young and the very old – shouldn’t the of us just be vigilant in employing common sense to help protect them?
But there are other circumstances where the sources of injury and death at home are not as evident or obvious, where the employment of common sense is just enough; defective products; shoddy construction; toxic substances in the house (e.g.. lead paint, radon, asbestos) or in drinking water; dangerous conditions left uncorrected by a landlord. For most of us, the challenge of identifying these latent hazards is immense. How are we supposed to know that a particular model of surge protector has caused dozens of home fires? How many among us appreciate the hazards of defective blind and curtain cords, which have caused many children’s deaths by accidental strangulation? Who should be expected to know that defective pipes are leaking, and causing toxic mold? The companies which sell these products are certainly not going to publicize those facts, nor does the government have the capacity to amass and distribute such information.
Nobody believes that the loss of his arm or leg can really be fully compensated by a jury which gives him an award of money. No parent or spouse believes that the value of their little girl or husband can be reduced to dollars. While juries must make such determinations, no caring or decent person would ever put a price on life or limb.
Take the opportunity to reevaluate the care you employ at home. Are parents trained in rescuing a child who is choking? Have you child-proofed all cabinets and doors? Is your elderly grandfather equipped to call you if he falls in the tub? One way a homeowner can check the safety of the numerous products in her house is by accessing www.homechecksafety.com and other sources designed to provide information on improving home safety. Our society can reduce home injuries and death. We can reduce lawsuits by discarding defective products, and by demanding more from landlords and builders who cut corners. Please begin to take steps in your own home to prevent avoidable injury death.
For more information, please contact us.