Property and business owners are liable for stair accidents in the same way as slip and fall accidents, generally. However, stairs present many additional dangers (some obvious and some subtle or hidden) that require special attention.
To hold a property owner accountable for the injuries you suffered from slipping or tripping and falling on stairs, you must be able to show one of these three things:
• The owner caused the dangerous condition which caused you to fall;
• The owner knew of the dangerous condition but did nothing about it; or
• The owner should have known of the dangerous condition because a reasonable person standing in their shoes would have discovered and fixed it.
In many stair accidents – for example, when something has been spilled or dropped on the stairs – the owner’s liability will depend on these three factors. However, stair accidents require a more detailed inquiry since stairs present inherent and heightened dangers not present on level surfaces.
While sometimes the cause of a staircase accident is clear and obvious, more often than not, there are subtle or hidden contributing factors, such as the following:
Slippery or worn surfaces:
A common hidden stair danger is worn carpet or wood that makes the tread surface dangerous. Some stairs are also constructed of tile or are highly polished, making them more slippery than they would otherwise appear.
Most building codes require handrails for certain types of stairs. If you fall on stairs that should have a handrail, but don’t, or if the rails are not of the required height or location, the owner may be liable. If you reach for a handrail but it is not where it is supposed to be, that can cause you to fall even when nothing else is wrong with the stairs. The owner may be liable in these circumstances.
Improper Stair Height or Depth:
Building codes require certain maximum and minimum measurements for the stair treads and risers (width, depth, and height). If you misstep or stumble on a stair, often it is because of small deviations in the usual and required stair configuration. These code requirements are in place and are so important because when we go up or downstairs, our brains will automatically recall how far the last step was and send a signal to our legs to move the same distance the next time. If the leg moves the same distance but the step isn’t in the same place — even if the difference is only slight — we may lose our balance and fall. If the treads or risers violate the building code, the stairs are defective and you may have a case.
Needless to say, if you’ve tripped or slipped and fallen on stairs, you need to contact a skilled and experienced personal injury attorney to protect your rights as soon as possible. Don’t wait for the property owner to fix the stairs before you’ve had a chance to prove what actually caused you to fall. An early and aggressive investigation including an inspection by a highly qualified expert engineer or architect will often give you the best chance to obtain maximum available compensation for your injuries.
If you were injured in a slip or trip and fall on stairs, call us at 845-353-2000. We can help.