A fall on a stairway is not only scary but can result in serious and permanent injuries.
These incidents can be all too common. Each year, approximately one million people are injured, and 12,000 people die in stairway falls.
If you’ve been injured after slipping on a step or falling in a stairway, you might be wondering who is to blame and whether you have a claim for damages.
For more than 25 years the personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman have been successfully handling all types of dangerous property cases for individuals in the greater Boston area.
Our skilled and experienced attorneys will investigate the circumstances around your fall and advise whether you have a viable claim against the property owner and any other potentially liable parties.
Our job is to obtain maximum compensation for you. If you are worried about whether you can afford an attorney, keep in mind that our law firm takes cases on a contingency fee basis. That means we do not get paid unless and until we recover money for you.I’ve Been Injured in a Stairway Fall. What Should I Do Now?
If you have fallen down a set of stairs while visiting someone else’s property, get medical attention as soon as you can. Any delay can cause the property owner or their insurer to argue that your injuries were not caused by your fall. Make sure that you tell all medical professionals who examine you how, when, and where you were injured. You will need your medical notes and treatment records to connect your injuries to the accident.
If possible, document the accident scene. Use your cellphone to take pictures or videos of the broken step, handrail, torn carpeting, or another defect that caused or contributed to your fall. Photograph your injuries on the day of the incident and throughout the healing process.
Notify the building owner or manager of your fall and obtain contact information for anyone who witnessed the accident. It is also a good idea to save the shoes and clothing you were wearing, in case someone tries to blame the fall on your choice of clothing or shoes.
A personal injury attorney will help you gather additional evidence. For example, if the fall took place at a store or other business, an attorney can help obtain security footage of the incident and find out which employees were working at the time. Many businesses have security cameras inside and outside their buildings.
In addition, an attorney will be able to determine if the stairs were defective and identify the property owner or other party responsible for the dangerous condition. In order to recover damages, you must be able to prove that the property owner was negligent, and that this negligence caused your injury. Recovery for damages can include compensation for any losses, including medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Property owners in Massachusetts are required to keep their premises in a reasonably safe condition for all customers and invited guests. Further, they must fix any hazards they know about, should know about, or they must warn guests about the danger.
Pursuant to Massachusetts law, even trespassers are owed some protection. Property owners who have knowledge of trespassers have an obligation to warn of serious dangers on their premises.Poor Maintenance and Bad Lighting Can Cause Step and Stairway Falls
Stairways typically consist of a landing platform, a handrail system, and steps, which are also known as risers. When one or more of these components is defective, the stairway becomes a danger zone.
Building codes for stairways are rigorous because of the potential for serious and life-changing injuries. You can read about Massachusetts state building codes here. Stairways that fail to adhere to code, or are not properly maintained, pose a danger to everyone who uses them.
Some common causes of step and stairway trip, slip and falls include:
- Incorrect or irregular step height or depth
- Uneven tread
- Broken stairs
- Missing nosing
- Poor design or construction
- Inadequate maintenance
- Frayed carpeting
- Debris or spills on stairs
- Improper lighting
- Slick or slippery surfaces
- Bad railings or handrails
- No railings or handrails
Stairway falls can take place in any setting, including at retail stores, restaurants, hotels, stadiums, apartment buildings, subway stations, and various other public and private settings. In most cases, property owners can prevent these accidents through routine maintenance.
Stairways should be well lit. Stairways with missing or burnt-out bulbs or no lighting at all pose a danger to all entering the premises. Stairs should be kept clean and free of debris, spills, and other substances that could make them slippery. Stairs that are in disrepair—rotten wood, crumbling concrete, loose carpeting—should be repaired immediately. The National Safety Council recommends that property owners perform regular inspections on stairways to prevent unnecessary injuries.
Handrails should be installed at the proper height and with the correct hardware. They should be kept clean and free of substances that can make them slippery and interfere with a person’s grip. In many cases, what might have been a minor accident is made worse because of a missing, broken, or incorrectly installed handrail.
In many cases, people trip and sustain injury when a step is missing a nosing. The nosing is the part of the tread that overhangs the stair and is designed to improve the safety of the staircase by providing extra space for people to place their feet. The nosing improves the visibility of each tread by clearly defining where it ends. This is especially helpful for people with poor eyesight or when lighting conditions are less than optimal.
Stairways can collapse when property owners are lax with maintenance and repairs, or when the structure was built incorrectly and is not up to code.
Some other common causes of a stairway collapse include:
- Overcrowding on stairs
- Structurally unsound stairs
- Stairs containing worn or broken parts
- Stairs built with inadequate materials
Stairway falls can result in injuries that range from minor to severe. According to one study, sprains and strains are the most common type of injury occurring in about 30% of these incidents, with both fractures and head and neck injuries occurring about 20% of the time.
Here’s a more extensive list of common stairway fall injuries:
- Sprains and strains
- Broken bones
- Head and neck injuries
- Face and dental injuries
- Spinal cord damage
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Back injuries
- Internal bleeding
- Wrongful death
Hand and wrist injuries are common since people, out of instinct, will attempt to brace their fall using these body parts. Older adults and children are most likely to fall down staircases. Seniors are more likely to have vision problems, as well as problems with balance and mobility, that can make climbing and descending stairs difficult. Seniors who slip and fall typically face longer recovery times than younger people.
Children are more likely to sustain head injuries in stairway falls. Older people sustain more fractures, which often require hospitalization.
The severity of a stairway fall injury will depend on the type of staircase involved, as well as the way in which the person falls. A carpeted staircase provides more padding and protection than a cement, tile, or marble staircase. A person who falls backward and hits his or her head on a hard surface may suffer a serious brain injury and have life-long impairments.
Injuries from falls that occur when a person is ascending a staircase tend to be less severe than injuries sustained while a person is descending a staircase. During ascension, the person’s forward momentum is stopped by the stairway itself. However, during descent, it’s possible that the person will fall a much greater distance.Defective Step and Stairway Falls in the Workplace
Workers are not immune from stairway slips, trips, and fall incidents.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration has created stair safety regulations for employers to use at job sites. For example, handrails must be provided on each staircase, and stairs must have uniform riser heights and tread depths. These regulations apply to all types of work environments and should be used in conjunction with state and local building codes.
Employees can protect themselves by:
- Always use handrails when ascending or descending a staircase.
- Never using stairways or landings as a place to store equipment or items, even on a temporary basis.
- Taking steps one at a time.
- Reporting any safety issues or concerns to management.
Employers can protect their employees by:
- Inspecting stairs on a regular basis for problems such as loose steps or rails, grease spills, and loose carpeting.
- Making sure stairways have adequate lighting.
To learn more about how our premises liability attorneys can help you or a family member with a defective step or stairway claim, contact The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, LLC today at (617) 777-7777 or use our online form.