University Study Analyzes Slip & Fall Injury Risk in Winter Weather

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Does Winter Weather Increase Your Slip & Fall Injury Risk?

Does Winter Weather Increase Your Slip & Fall Injury Risk?

Jan 14, 2022

Living in Southern California certainly has its benefits when it comes to weather conditions. Although December was atypically cold and rainy – with the Los Angeles Times reporting that back-to-back storms at the end of the month led to almost seven inches of rain being “dumped” on the city’s downtown neighborhood – sunny skies and warm temperatures are the norm for most of us.

Unlike much of the nation, the winter months in Los Angeles County don’t usually bring freezing temperatures along with snow – conditions that can be ripe for slip & fall injuries on icy sidewalks and parking lots.

But do winter weather conditions actually increase your risk of suffering a slip & fall injury?

A new study from the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada, sheds some light on the subject – with researchers analyzing how much your risk of suffering a slip or trip & fall injury is increased during winter months in cold weather climates.

Does Winter Weather Increase Your Risk for a Slip & Fall Injury?

The aforementioned study – FROST: Factors Depicting Orthopedic Trauma Volumes – was headed by Dr. Neil White, MD, an orthopedic surgeon and assistant professor at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine. Together with Martina Vergouwen, a university Faculty of Nursing student, Dr. White used a comprehensive dataset to identify the relationship between:

  • Weather variables
  • Time of year
  • Orthopedic trauma surgery levels

The study was limited to the city of Calgary – a metropolitan area with a population of approximately 1.3 million.

As a report from the University of Calgary noted, the researchers’ findings created a “predictive ice model to forecast increases in surgery due to weather and the overall risk of falling.

The research team reviewed 11 years of data on trauma surgical orthopedic cases (almost 41,000 in total) from Calgary hospitals as well as weather information from the Calgary International Airport and Government of Alberta Road Weather Information System (RWIS) sensors.

With help from a meteorologist – David Spence – the research team created an ice model using air and surface temperature and precipitation levels. They then compared the weather data with past orthopedic trauma surgery volumes.

Some key findings from the slip & fall injury study include:

  • Ice for three consecutive days prior and same day snow was predictive of a 37% increase in overall volume of orthopedic trauma surgery.
  • Winter and summer, independent of weather, resulted in increased orthopedic trauma volumes.
  • Patients waited longer for trauma surgery in December and July than in any other months of the year.
  • When the amount of trauma surgery required exceeded allocated operating room time, two main mechanisms were used to manage overflow volumes: increased patient wait times and increased after-hours surgery.

In other words, the weather patterns in Calgary were found to impact both the volume and nature of orthopedic trauma surgeries. Specifically, the data revealed a correlation between increased hip and ankle injuries on the same day as “winter snowstorms.”

What we discovered by analyzing the data is that time of year plays a significant role. In knowing that it is January, we can predict it will be busy, but when we add snow and ice conditions, we see surges that can overwhelm our hospital resources,” Dr. White said.

“Although operating room resources are consistent all year, one way to better prepare for an expected surge in orthopedic surgical volumes is to schedule fewer elective surgeries in the predictive busy months to free up space for increases in trauma surgery and instead offer more elective surgery in the low trauma seasons,” White added. “By matching our trauma resources to patients’ needs, we can help efficiently use resources and staffing to decrease wait times and stress on our operating rooms.”

Moreover, the researchers developed a “slip and fall index” by adding other variables, including:

  • Fresh snow on the ground
  • Ice conditions

Accordingly, they were able to calculate the overall risk of falling on the ice as well as the potential for suffering an injury as a result.

With the slip and fall index, we can calculate the risk as very high or very low by accounting for multiple weather variables and previous days’ conditions,” Vergouwen, the lead author on the study, said. “We hope to eventually use the data as a way to prevent injuries by informing the public of their increased risk of falling while walking outside on any given day.

The research team said that in the future they hope to be able to use the data gathering model in other climates to serve as a “public health tool,” with the goal being to minimize slip & fall injury risk levels among the public.

At the system level, it is important to minimize orthopedic trauma surges, but it is equally important for individuals to avoid breaking their ankle or hip. If we can reduce five to 10% of trauma surgeries by preventing injuries and falls, the impact is massive on people’s well-being and to the health system overall,” Vergouwen said.

What is a Slip & Fall Lawsuit?

What is a Slip & Fall Lawsuit?

Slip or trip and fall lawsuits are civil claims – often brought against property owners or management companies in pursuit of financial compensation for an injury that was due to negligence. In order for a slip & fall claim to be successful, the injured party (or their personal injury lawyer) must demonstrate that the individual or entity responsible for maintaining a safe environment was either negligent or careless.

Slip & fall lawsuits are frequently filed against parking lot management companies, hotels, casinos, etc.

What Damages May be Recoverable in a Slip & Fall Lawsuit?

Slip and fall claims may be brough in an effort to recover various types of damages, such as:

  • Hospital expenses
  • Medical bills
  • Pain and suffering
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning capacity

How much an injured party’s slip and fall claim may be worth typically depends on the extent of the injury and the level of negligence or carelessness involved.

For a list of common slip & fall injuries, visit our recent blog here.

Contact a Los Angeles Slip & Fall Lawyer Today

Dordulian Law Group (DLG) is a personal injury firm based in Los Angeles County that has extensive experience handling slip or trip and fall lawsuits. DLG’s trusted team of slip & fall lawyers is led by Sam Dordulian, a former Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney with more than 25 years of legal expertise.

DLG’s dedicated professionals have helped injured victims recover more than $100 million in settlements and verdicts. To speak to a slip and fall lawyer for a free, confidential, and no obligation consultation, contact DLG today at 818-322-4056.

Go See Sam