Trip and fall accidents can cause serious, and sometimes fatal injuries. There is a combination of factors that come into play when someone trips and falls on the stairs. Including, deficiencies in design, lighting, visibility and attention. These factors are the culprits of the majority of slip-and-fall accidents involving stairway’s. More severe upper/lower extremity injuries occur when traveling down a stairway, opposed to traveling up. With respect to stairway descent’s, the tread-depth or horizontal surface must be adequate for the ball of the foot to land on tread without extending over the step below. If not, individuals over-step or misstep causing a forward fall.
Riser and Tread Design
Research has shown that during stairway use, pedestrians view only the first and last three (3) steps, with the rest of the stairway negotiated without looking. Thus, the design of the top three steps and bottom three steps is very important.
Poor visibility of both risers and treads lead to misreading the stair edge, which can cause faulty foot placement and a trip-and-fall accident.
To Increase Visibility
Provide visual contrast on tread nosing’s, or at leading edges of treads without nosing’s, so that stair treads are more visible for people with low vision. Surfaces that are covered with the color “safety yellow” are most visually detectable. Additionally, in low lit areas, highlight each step using step lighting.
Adequate lights is vital to preventing trip-and-fall accidents down staircases. As people descend the stairway, the floor below and the treads are in their line of sight, but the risers are not. Therefore, top safety priority is to make treads more visible through contrasting nosing’s and adequate lighting.
A large number of stairway falls occur when individuals step off the top of the stairway into thin air. This type of fall is commonly known as, “the air-step-fall.” Generally, these falls occur on low stairways consisting of one, two, or three steps. In effect, people step off into thin air, not having seen the stair or stairs at all. This type of fall commonly occurs inside public buildings such as, hotels and restaurants. “Air-Step-Falls” occur when people fail to perceive the modest floor change and are usually the most serious accidents on low stairways.
When people fail to notice a stairway, tripping is always a serious hazard. The biggest reason for trip-and-fall accidents is inadequate stair dimensions, missing railings, improper railing heights and poor lighting are also contributing factors.
Maintenance and Use
Many stairway accidents occur due to poor maintenance, inattention, and use. There should be no excessive wear, missing or loose treads. Stairways should never have liquid or any other debris in or around the area of the stairwell.
Non-Fatal staircase fall injuries include; bruises, bone fractures, and sprains. These injuries may occur to the legs, feet, hands, and trunk. On the other hand, fatal staircase fall injuries include; Fracture to the skull, fracture to trunk, and fracture to lower limbs.
Generally, falls occurring on ascending stair cases are less severe than injuries occurring while descending. While ascending, the forward momentum of a fall is arrested by the stair structure itself, but while descending, there is potentially a much greater distance to fall. Thus, falls occurring while ascending a staircase tend to produce much greater bodily injury.
In order to file a lawsuit for a slip and fall accident on a stairway, you must prove:
- The property owner had an obligation (or duty) to the victim
- The property owner failed to live up to that duty
- The victim was injured as a result
Proving premises liability can be tough, that is why you should always contact an experienced personal injury attorney immediately after your fall. Shopkeepers and store owners have a duty to maintain their premises and keep it safe, but sometimes the store will not be liable for your injury. In addition, a defendant will not always be liable for falls occurring on their premises. Tort law imposes a duty, only to exercise reasonable care/ precautions with respect to stairwell maintenance and safety. If a defendant acts with reasonable care, they are not negligent, and thus, not liable for any injuries that may have occurred.
What is considered “reasonable” is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Typically, there are a number of factors to be weighed. Those include;
- The extent to which the injury was foreseeable, and the magnitude of the risk
- The cost and effort in implementing an absent precaution. and;
- The likelihood that the precaution would have avoided the injury
In short, to establish a viable personal injury claim there is a balancing of many factors, with reasonableness under the circumstances being the basis of consideration.
In some cases, the violation of a statute may be sufficient to prove breach of the “standard of care” in a negligence claim. For example, if a state statute requires handrails to be installed on stairways over a certain height, then a court will likely find that the failure to install (handrails) is sufficient to prove a breach of the standard of care. This legal Doctrine is called, Negligence-Per-Se. However, even if you can establish Negligence-Per-Se, liability is not always automatic. The Plaintiff must still prove that the absent handrail was the proximate or legal cause of the injury.
Stairwell Design Defects
The duty of care can also be violated if there are defects in the design of the stairs or handrails. This arises when the stairs vary in height or are strangely angled, sloped, or pitched, with respect to handrails, the issue can be the handrail itself or the lack thereof. Negligence liability usually hinges on whether the defendant knew or should have known about the unreasonably dangerous condition and/or defect.
Why Others Choose Us!
Our law firm recognizes that every slip-and-fall accident is different and each individual requires different attention and focus. At our offices we have a team of highly experienced personal injury and slip-and-fall attorney’s that specialize in this area of practice. Immediately after your slip-and-fall accident, one of the most important decisions you will make is which attorney you choose to represent you with respect to your injury claim. As an accident victim, you will most likely be contacted by the at-fault party’s insurance company. They will talk to you and see if you are alright, but most-likely, they may trick you into saying something that could potentially ruin your case and any chance you may have of receiving compensation for your injuries. This is one of the many reasons why it is so crucial that you hire an experienced personal injury lawyer immediately after your fall.
Once you have retained our office to represent you in your slip and fall case, our team of professionals will set you up with various doctors that will provide you with treatment for any injury you have sustained. Important to remember is that you will NEVER pay any out-of-pocket costs that may arise while your claim is being handled. Additionally, if our office is unable to win your case and recover compensation for you, YOU WILL NEVER PAY. That is one of the greatest aspects of retaining our offices, we offer a no win, no fee guarantee, so you will never pay anything until the day you are handed a check by your attorney. We work on a contingency fee basis which means that we work for you, for free, until the day we hand you a check. Once your case has been settled we take a pre-determined percentage. We always make sure that our client’s receive more compensation than us, and we will aggressively fight your case until your settlement comes rolling in.