Have you ever thought about how many stairs and escalators you traverse in a single day Some of us hike multiple flights of stairs and even a few escalators just on our daily commute to work. Others of us have to walk several flights of stairs anytime we leave or return home. We rarely think of these obstacles as a hazard, as they are so common and part of our day-to-day life. Sometimes we get a reminder of the potential danger when we accidentally stumble coming up the steps or slip and catch ourselves in the descent. But, have you ever thought of what would happen if you didnt catch yourself?
Stair and Escalator Accidents Overview
Escalators and staircases allow us to ascend from one floor the next. Some escalators also enable us to go across the floor too, as in the moving sidewalks in many airports. As useful and necessary as these structures and devices are, when they arent built to code or are maintained poorly, then they have the potential to cause serious falls and even fatal accidents.
During a stair or escalator accident case, determining the at-fault party can be a difficult task because there are a lot of potential candidates. If poor maintenance is the root cause of the accident, then the blame will fall on the property owner. Poor maintenance can also be claimed if that property owner hasn’t updated an existing staircase to be in accordance with new building codes.
In cases of escalator accidents, the machinery could have been defective, in which case the manufacturer of the escalator is the responsible party. This is sometimes the case with staircases, where a carpenter built the stairs improperly or with bad materials, but this can be difficult to prove, especially if the property is old and the stairs have existed for a long time.
If the victim can’t prove any machinery malfunction or maintenance-related negligence, then it’s hard to claim any damages. After all, sometimes we fall naturally from our own clumsiness. However, if you feel that you’ve been the victim of a stair or escalator accident where malfunction or property owner negligence is to blame, you should consult the help of a lawyer to ensure that you recover the owed damages and win your claim.
Proving Fault in a Stair or Escalator Accident Claim
As the victim, your job is to prove that negligence or equipment malfunction was the root cause of your fall, while also showing that you acted in a safe, rational and reasonable manner while making your way up or down the stairs/escalator.
Property owners are required to maintain their buildings and make updates when necessary to be in accordance with building codes and property guidelines. Failing to uphold this duty and knowingly ignoring or refusing to address safety issues and routine maintenance and upkeep is negligible behavior. Some examples include:
- Failing to address a wet or slippery spot or not posting any signage warning of the hazard
- Not removing or repairing any potential tripping hazards, such as a worn or bunched-up carpet, a cord running across the floor or other obstructions
- Failing to fix a broken step, railing or other stair/escalator part promptly
- For outdoor stairs during snowy weather, allowing snow and ice to build up without it being removed in a timely fashion
- Not having escalators routinely inspected for damages caused by wear and tear or other issues
- Not remedying any problems that arise from an inspection or prior complaint
Time and knowing are important factors in deciding whether a property owner was negligent or not. While they are expected to maintain and keep their buildings safe, they aren’t expected to rush out on every moment’s notice to mop up a spill or keep the outdoor stairways guarded against snow in a blizzard.
Additionally, they aren’t psychic. If they didn’t know a problem existed, it’s much harder to claim damages from a property owner. If that property owner rents or leases space to tenants who failed to notify him of a major issue, they could be held accountable instead.
Again, for the property owner to be deemed negligent, they have to act in a way that they disregarded known issues and didn’t handle them promptly.
For escalators, it is possible that liability falls on the shoulders of the machines manufacturer. If the owner of the building did everything expected of them to keep it maintained, operating and routinely inspected and it still malfunctioned in a way that caused injury, it may be a defective part or design, which would be the manufacturers responsibility.
While escalators have come a long way and are much safer than they were even just a decade ago, there’s still a lot of potential for risk. Small fingers (like that of a child’s), hair, shoelaces and other objects on a person are very prone to getting lodged in between the escalator plates (the stairs), the railing or any of the other moving parts. This risk goes up substantially when an escalator isn’t properly maintained for a variety of reasons:
- Screws are loose or missing due to lack of proper and timely maintenance
- The escalator track is worn and missing teeth; again, the result of poor maintenance
- Theres excessive space between individual plates or the railway, which enhances the chance for fingers and other items to become lodge, usually a design defect
- A mechanical breakdown or pulley system malfunction which causes the escalator to shift or stop rapidly, which could be a manufacturing defect or the cause of poor care
- Plates are worn and have overly sharp edges because the properly owner has failed to replace them
As you can see, when it comes to escalators, liability can very easily jump between manufacturer and property owner depending on the root cause of the accident.
As mentioned above, the victim of the accident has to prove that their actions didnt contribute to their fall. This is known as comparative negligence and is a measure of your own potential carelessness as a contributing factor to the accident. For example, if you were in a rush and running up or down the stairs before the accident, a court or insurance company may decide that lack of care was the root cause of the fall and not the negligence of the property owner.
Lastly, it is important to note that for any claim to be made in the first place, there has to be some injury or damages caused by the accident. If you were unharmed by the fall, then there are no damages for you to recover. If there was injury, you might need the report or testimony of a doctor that proves the harm was caused by the accident in question.
An accident on an escalator or stairway not only has the potential to cause physical harm, even death, but the resulting claims case can quickly spiral into a complicated and emotionally stressful battle of passing blame and liability. Thus, you want to ensure that you have the very best legal firm to help you navigate these obstacles and set you on the right path to recovering the damages you are owed.