The United States Department of Transportation performed a study that determined that when a person walks normally, their foot rises as low as 3/8 of an inch off the ground. Thus, any object sticking up 3/8 of an inch or higher from a level walking space can be a tripping hazard and can cause a person walking normally to trip and fall and suffer serious personal injuries.
Based on the above, building and maintenance codes allow for a change in height of up to a 1/4 of an inch, as this height is still below the 3/8 of an inch height that the average person may lift his or her foot while walking. However, changes in height above 1/4 of an inch require a specific form of leveling, depending on the amount of change in height and slope. For changes in height between 1/4 to 1/2 inch, the change in height must be beveled or angled so the two separate surfaces meet. Like the edge of a mirror is beveled to reduce the height difference between the surface of the mirror and the wall. For changes in height greater than 1/2 of an inch, the codes require a ramp, such as a handicap ramp that we are all familiar with or a stairway where the height and slope are greater.
Thus, any abrupt change in height on a walking surface that is more than 1/4 of an inch in height and is not beveled or ramped constitutes a tripping hazard and if the property owner fails to repair this known tripping hazard, they will be found to be negligent and responsible for an injured person's medical bills, lost wages and personal injuries. Typical abrupt changes in height on sidewalks and walking surfaces are caused by cracked or broken pavement or raised blocks of concrete due to freeze and thaw cycles or tree roots, etc. Not surprisingly, the tripping hazards that cause the most falls and injuries are the situations where the abrupt change in height is only 3/8 of an inch to 1 inch, as this height change is enough to cause a person to trip and fall, but it is not as readily visible to the average person walking on a sidewalk, walkway, parking lot or other walking surface to see and avoid.
If you or someone you care about trips and falls due to a negligently maintained sidewalk or walking surface and is injured, you should contact an experienced personal injury lawyer with 25 years of experience handling trip and fall and slip and fall claims to ensure that you or the person you care about is fully compensated for his or her medical expenses, lost wages and personal injures suffered as a result of their fall.