Even the most graceful among us has slipped, tripped and fallen at some point in our lives. If we’re lucky, we can just get up, with nothing more painful than a dent in our dignity. But for many others, slipping, tripping or falling can lead to significant injuries, resulting in lost time from work, expensive lawsuits, hospitalization or even death.

In our litigious society, slips and falls is the number one area of tort litigation.

“It draws phenomenally huge numbers of lawsuits,” says Russ Kendzior, founder of the Southlake, Texas-based National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI), as well as secretary of the ANSI B101 Committee. Part of the problem, he says, is the lack of ANSI standards that have yet to be adopted by OSHA.

“It’s been the ‘Wild, Wild West.’ Anyone can claim anything is slippery,” says Kendzior. “There never were any standards, no slip resistant requirements, or defining what constitutes a slip-resistant floor.”

Slips and falls is an astronomical, multi-billion dollar industry — approximately 80 billion dollars last year and it is going up annually, says Steve Spencer, facilities specialist with State Farm Insurance in Bloomington, Illinois.

“The average cost of a slip and fall accident is about $7,000,” he says.

And, rather than follow safety procedures, many companies are quick to settle because the cost of slip and fall claims are often built right into their budgets. Unfortunately, the cost of these claims results in raised insurance premiums for the company, which is then passed along to the consumer in higher prices of goods.

Despite these figures, though, fraudulent claims are uncommon.

“Fraud is a very small percentage of slips and falls,” says Kendzior. “If you include trips, it’s approximately 3 percent. For floor slips and falls alone, it’s 10 percent.”

However, some fraudulent claims fall under the “soft fraud” definition — for example, someone fell, but they are not as hurt as they claim to be.

“Soft fraud is popular, especially for workers who do not have access to health care; this is how they get their medical bills paid,” says Kendzior.

What will help eliminate fraud, suggests Spencer, is installing cameras.

Hilary Daninhirsch is a freelance writer based in Pittsburgh.