Houman Fakhimi

Stairway Accidents

An estimated 1 million Americans suffer a serious stair-related injury every year, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. An estimated 1 million people die in stair-related falls.

The Riverside stairway accident lawyers at Fakhimi & Associates, Trail Attorneys, know that many stair accident victims blame themselves for their own clumsiness or carelessness when they slip, trip or fall. But often, there is some other issue, and it could be the result of negligence.

We have seen cases where there was a flaw in the stairway’s design. Other times, it’s the failure of the premises owner to properly maintain the stairway (i.e., torn carpets, uneven floorboards, poor lighting, etc.). It could be negligence in failing to clean up some transitory foreign substance (a spill) that puts users in peril.

It’s estimated that stair accidents an estimated $12 billion every year when you factor in medical bills, lost wages and disability benefits.

Figures like that remind us of the fact that while stairways are part of our everyday lives, we can’t them for granted. They can in fact be quite dangerous. Some of the common injuries that result from stairway accidents:

  • Cuts and abrasions
  • Sprains and strains
  • Fractured bones – especially in the hands, wrists and harms
  • Fractured pelvis
  • Knee damage
  • Whiplash, neck and back injuries
  • Spinal cord damage/ paralysis
  • Facial injuries (including dental and vision damage)
  • Head trauma
  • Death

Two of the most vulnerable victims? Children and the elderly.

A 2012 study by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, OH revealed a child falls down the stairs and is rushed to the hospital every six minutes. That amounts to almost 100,000 children a year.

Elderly people are at higher risk of falls in general, and when they do, they are at higher risk of injury. The National Safety Council reports that 84 percent of those who die after a fall in the home are over the age of 65.

Causes of Stair Falls

Again, many people who fall down the stairs are embarrassed, even if they are badly hurt. Their first instincts are to laugh it off with self-deprecating humor. But their injuries – even those that may not be immediately apparent – are no laughing matter.

Some of the most common causes of stair falls related to negligence are:

  • Defects in the stairs, stairwell or stairway
  • Improper or inferior lighting
  • Dangerous stair risers
  • Damaged or faulty steps
  • Defective railings or handrails
  • Slippery substance on the stairs
  • Cluttered stairways

In many situations, problems stem from a combination of issues.

Most of these accidents stem from defects that are hidden. People owe a general duty to avoid hazardous conditions when they can. If a danger is open and obvious, defendant property owner is likely to argue plaintiff was wholly or partially to blame for the fall – and that can significantly reduce one’s damages.

Design Defects

Design defects are those that are often totally unknowable to the injured person. These may include:

  • Stairway visibility. When a person has poor visibility of risers and treads, it can lead to a person misunderstanding where the edge of the stair is. Property owners can use step lighting in low-light areas and provide visual contrast at the nose edging or at the leading edges.
  • Stair rails and hand rails. Stair rails protect people from falling off the edge of the landing or stairs, while hand rails offer stability to those walking up and down stairs. If the handrails are too thick or too skinny, it won’t provide proper support. It’s important to make sure these systems are built to code and properly maintained.
  • Poor lighting. If can’t see where they are going, they are at high risk of a fall – even if they are on an even walking surface. On stairs, this is especially dangerous.
Liability for Stairway Injuries

Property owners have an obligation to keep areas used by visitors safe. That includes making sure stairways are in compliance with applicable building codes and are properly maintained.

In these situations, property owners, managers, employees and sometimes third-party cleaning crews or contractors can be held liable for stairway accidents – similar to the way these parties might be responsible for a slip-and-fall.

In order to prove negligence, plaintiff will need to show that defendant:

  • Owed a duty to design, erect or maintain the stairs, surface conditions on the stairs or the entire stairway;
  • Knew or should have known there was a dangerous condition (the “should have known” is called constructive knowledge, and it means the danger would have been discovered had the defendant been using reasonable care);
  • Failed to remedy the dangerous condition in a timely manner;
  • Injury directly resulted from this dangerous condition;
  • Victim, who was legally on the property, suffered damages as a result of that injury.

If you have been injured as a result of a stairway fall in Southern California, our legal team will help examine the facts of your case to determine whether there are grounds to pursue a claim.

Contact the injury lawyers at Fakhimi & Associates, Trial Attorneys, by calling (714) 705-6701. Serving the Southern California counties of Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Riverside.