At Jaroslawicz & Jaros our experienced Personal Injury attorneys have successfully handled hundreds of cases involving persons injured while using stairs in various premises.
Although everyone is familiar with staircases and uses stairs on a daily basis, whether at their home or at commercial premises, people do not realize just how dangerous a slip, trip and fall accident on a staircase can be.
In only the second that it takes to fall and be injured your entire life may suddenly change. Will you be able to work? Will you be able to care for yourself and your family? What medical treatment do you need? Who will pay for that treatment? What will the long-term effects of the injury be? Will you make a complete recovery?
We have, unfortunately, represented many people who suffered serious, devastating, and life altering injuries, such as a traumatic brain injury, fractured or dislocated coccyx, elbow, femur, or shoulder as a result of a simple “slip, trip or fall" on a stairway.
There are many different causes for a fall on stairs. The stairs may be worn, chipped or cracked. A foreign object or liquid may make the stairs dangerously slippery, or the stairs may be old and rickety. Each of these conditions may cause a person using the stairs to be injured in a fall, and each fall is thus unique to its own circumstance. In other words, how worn, chipped or cracked were the steps, what foreign object or liquid made the stairs dangerously slippery, how were the stairs old and rickety?
As each of the above examples are “fact specific", it is important to take measurements and photographs of the stairs, as well as attempting to obtain a video of the fall, as soon as possible after the fall so that you can then better prove what caused you to fall.
Because stairways are used so often, and because a fall can lead to such serious injuries, there are many codes and standards that apply to safe stairs, and which require that stairways be consistent in design and construction. Standards are set by municipal building codes, fire codes, and property maintenance codes as well as other professional organizations.
The two major factors in a stairway fall are the steps and handrails.
Stairs consist of treads and risers:
The tread is the horizontal surface which you walk on. The riser is the vertical part between each tread.
The basic rule is that stairway steps must be consistent, so that they are of a uniform height and width. Going up or down a stairway after you take the first few steps, you expect that the conditions you have experienced will continue throughout the rest of the stairway. Stair conditions must be made consistent. The treads and risers should all be the same height and width.
Sometimes, especially in older buildings, steps have a metal shield at the edge of each step which is called a “nosing”. Nosings on the steps must be regular, easily visible, and most importantly, securely attached to the steps to avoid a tripping hazard. We have seen many accidents caused by old, loose or misshapen nosings on steps that caused people to catch their shoes and then trip and fall down the stairs.
Stairways require sufficient and adequate lighting at all times so that when you are using the stairs you can see where each step starts and ends
Handrails assist you to maintain your balance when using a stairway, and also helps prevent falls on stairs. Aside from holding onto a handrail as you use the stairs, in the event you trip or lose your balance you instinctively grab onto the handrail and try to prevent a fall.
Handrails must be securely attached throughout the entire length of the stairway as well as at the very top and bottom of the stairs. You must have enough room between the wall and the handrail to be able to “grasp" and hold onto the handrail. There should not be any point on the stairway where you must take your hand off of the handrail because there is not enough room for your hand due to some impediment. Handrails must be uninterrupted and continuous. Depending on the width of the stairway handrails may be required on both sides of the stairway.
Until an accident happens to them personally most people do not realize how fragile they are and how a simple slip, trip and fall on a stair, that they have used countless times in the past, can suddenly result in very serious life altering injuries.
At the firm of Jaroslawicz & Jaros we have handled many accidents involving slips, trips and falls on stairs.
While his wife was shopping, an elderly man visiting New York from out of town went to a bar and had a few drinks with a friend, which is what people in bars do. As he was leaving the bar and going down the steps, he fell down about ten (10) steps and fractured his hip among other serious injuries. When we went to investigate and inspected the stairs, we found that the handrail had an obstruction at the third step going down, which had caused him to lose his balance and fall. We were not offered a fair settlement and went to Trial where we first proved that the handrail was a dangerous design that caused his fall and then obtained a verdict of over one million dollars for his injuries.
Each accident case has its own set of unique facts.
We represented one woman attending a wedding who badly cut her hand because the end of the handrail had a sharp edge.
Another woman caught her shoe on loose nosing and fell down the flight of stairs.
We have had cases where the marble stairs were old, worn and uneven causing a tripping hazard; in another case the marble stairs were old and had large cracks; the stairs were not of uniform height making them dangerous and easy to lose your balance; the lighting was too dark; and many other reasons for people suffering an injury while simply using a staircase.
If you or a loved one have suffered an injury while using a stairway you should immediately contact a lawyer with experience in this field of law so that an investigation can be started immediately. In today’s day and age there are often videos that can be obtained but that are destroyed or overwritten within thirty days, witnesses to be interviewed, photographs and measurements should be taken as soon as possible as often changes and alterations can take place after an accident.