Stair accidents are the second leading cause of unintentional injuries, next to car crashes, with 1 million injury-resulting accidents per year. Such cases are largely the result of broken or defective stairs and stairwells. It is the property owner’s responsibility to ensure that all stairs are properly maintained and that any potential safety hazards are fixed or removed.
Stair accidents are slightly more complicated than typical slip, trip, or fall accidents, as the nature of stairs comes with inherent danger that leveled surfaces do not. However, not all defects in stairs and stairwells are obvious or apparent, which may leave you wondering how the accident happened and what is or is not reasonable in the construction and/or maintenance of stairs. Our esteemed attorneys will explain your rights to you and represent you for maximum compensation.
Slippery Stairs and Improper Stair Materials
A very common, yet hidden and dangerous, cause is the worn-out part of the carpet or wood on the “run” of the stair, or the horizontal part where people step as they ascend and descend. This cause is not easy for people to detect, but should be prevented by routine maintenance by the property manager.
Stairs are made out of various materials, some of which are more slippery and dangerous than others. For example, stairs made of marble, tile, or highly polished wood are more slippery than stairs made out of painted wood, carpet, or stone. For safety purposes, anti-slip strips should be placed length-wise on each step of outside stairs and/or particularly slippery surfaces. If a property owner fails to exercise proper discretion when choosing materials for their stair wells, they may be responsible for resulting accidents.
Uneven or Improper Stair Height or Depth
Building codes prescribe minimum and maximum measurements for the height and depth of the “riser” and “run” respectively, or the vertical and horizontal part of each step. If the measurement of the stairs does not match the numbers listed in the building codes, the stairs are defective. At that point, you must show how that defect caused your injury.
Building codes also specifies the acceptable variance standard, or the maximum height and depth differences permitted from one step to another. This is important because as we ascend or descend stairs, our brain remembers the depth and height of each step, so if there is even a slight difference we may lose our balance and fall.
All stairs must have clear and visible edges.
All stairs must be free of any physical obstacles that pose a risk. Hazards for both indoor and outside may include but are not limited to snow, ice, garbage, rain, sand, wet leaves, trash, and boxes. It is the property owner’s responsibility to ensure that indoor and outdoor stairways are clean, clear, and free of any potential hazards or dangerous situations.
Any staircase, regardless of size or location, must be well lit at all times of the day. This includes stairways that have access to natural light, as they need to be well lit during the night as well. The property owner may be at fault for accidents that occur as a result of poor lighting.
Building codes specify the type, height, and width of handrails in a given staircase. All handrails must be sturdy, properly installed, and up to building code requirements. In cases involving missing or improper handrails, the property owner may be at fault.
Researching the Building Code
To find your building code, visit your county building department, local library, or law library.
Experts, such as engineers, architects, building inspectors, are usually required to analyze and assess the condition. There are standards and many variables depending on the particular physical situation (for instance, the friction co-efficient of exterior versus interior stairs). Michael Manoussos & Co PLLC are superb rated personal injury attorneys who fight to obtain you the compensation and financial security you deserve.