Financial Compensation for Stairway Accidents
People are injured daily in stairway accidents throughout California. When the accident occurs on somebody's property, the owner could be liable for your injuries under premises liability laws.
Their insurance policy usually provides coverage for injury accidents on the property. If defective stairs caused an accident, an injury claim could be filed against the construction company, manufacturing company, or contractor.
A stairway accident lawsuit is usually based on premises liability, product liability, or negligence.
Property owners have a duty of care to keep the property safe. Whenever there is a safety hazard, they are responsible for fixing the problem or warning visitors about the safety issue.
When an owner fails to keep their property in a safe condition, and somebody is injured as a result, then the property owner has breached their duty of care and could be held liable for damages.
Stairway injuries happen to approximately 1 million Americans each year—and unfortunately, many of the resulting injuries are preventable.
Falling down the stairs can cause many injuries ranging from scrapes and sprains to severe fractures and even brain injuries.
As noted, property owners have a duty of care to make sure stairways are safe and up to code. If an injury accident occurs due to the owner's negligence of those stairs, the victim may be eligible to collect damages under a premises liability claim.
Our California personal injury attorneys will review common questions about stairway accidents and lawsuits below.
What Are the Common Causes of Stairway Injury Accidents?
There are many potential causes for a slip and fall accident on stairs, but some of the most common reasons include:
- Missing or defective handrails,
- Slippery surfaces and slippery stairs,
- Wet or ice on steps,
- Poor lighting. Stairways should be well-lit to ensure people can find their footing; otherwise, they may fall and become injured,
- Stair heights out of compliance with building codes,
- Loose or frayed carpeting,
- Weak or broken steps, rotting wood,
- Obstacles/obstructions left on the steps,
- Faulty stair risers,
- Uneven steps,
- Loose, broken, or inadequate handrails,
- Inadequate lighting in the stairway,
- Stairway collapse,
- Blocked or cluttered stairway.
What Are the Common Injuries from Falling Down Stairs?
When someone loses their balance on the stairs, the power of gravity takes over.
The resulting injuries can be very significant, depending on their condition and how far they fall. Common injuries from stairway accidents are listed below.
Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) - Hitting one's head in a fall can be exceptionally dangerous, with injuries that range from mild concussions to severe brain damage or death.
Neck and spine injuries - The force of a fall can cause the victim's neck and back to twist unnaturally, resulting in potentially lifelong pain and paralysis.
Broken bones - Fractures are common when a person falls downstairs, especially if the fall is significant or they land awkwardly after trying to catch themselves. Broken arms, legs, ankles, wrists, feet, fingers, ribs—the list of potential injuries is extensive.
Internal injuries - When a person falls, their body often slams into the stairs or the ground with significant force. This can cause internal injuries such as organ damage, which may not be readily apparent but can sometimes be life-threatening.
How Can Liability Be Proven in Stairway Accidents?
The owner of a stairway has a duty of care to ensure that the stairs are safe for use.
Accordingly, the state of California has extensive building codes for how stairs should be constructed, including their width and depth, the materials used for railings, where and how barriers should be installed, how much weight they can sustain, etc.
Thus, to prove that the stairway owner is liable for an injury accident, the attorney must demonstrate four things:
- The owner had a duty of care (which is inherent and understood);
- The owner failed in their duty of care by allowing unsafe conditions on the stairs;
- The victim was injured as a result of that negligence; and
- The victim suffered loss as a result of those injuries.
Specifically, the property owner of the stairs may be proven liable for the victim's injuries if the attorney can demonstrate that the victim was injured for any of the following reasons:
- The stairs failed to measure up to California building codes;
- Unsafe conditions existed on the stairs, and the owner did nothing to correct them or give fair warning;
- The owner should have known about unsafe conditions and did not respond promptly.
What Is the Commercial Property Liability?
Commercial property owners also have a duty of care to visitors on the property. The most common include malls, grocery stores, office buildings, shopping centers, and restaurants.
The most critical areas that need to be kept safe on a commercial property include the high traffic area like parking lots and walkways inside the business. Often, a management company is responsible for the maintenance of the property.
The property owner must be reasonable in inspecting the property, fixing dangerous conditions, and promptly responding to any safety hazards.
Under California law, several factors must be considered to determine whether the property owner or management company was reasonable, including:
- Location of the commercial property,
- Level of control over the hazardous condition,
- Level of burden to repair or avoid the risk,
- Chances of an injury to a visitor or guest,
- Seriousness of potential injuries
Commercial properties usually have higher insurance coverage limits for personal injuries on their property. Many will have multiple insurance policies, and a claim could have multiple defendants' insurance companies.
What Are the Challenges to Proving Liability?
Holding a stairway owner liable is often easier said than done. Insurance companies are well-versed in defending premises liability lawsuits and will often try to blame the victim by contending that they were careless or reckless.
They might also argue that their injuries were not a direct result of the fall. California is a comparative fault state, so if the defense can show that the victim played a role in their injuries on the stairs, the amount of the settlement may be reduced.
Another scenario that may result in injury is if another person intentionally pushes the victim down the stairs. If so, not only may that person be guilty of a crime (i.e., assault and battery), but the victim may also file a personal injury lawsuit against them to recover damages.
What Are the Possible Damages in Stairway Accidents?
If you have been injured due to a fall down a stairway caused by someone else's negligence, that person is legally liable to cover your resulting losses.
Damages you may be able to claim in a personal injury or premises liability lawsuit may include:
- Medical expenses,
- Loss of income,
- Lost earning capacity if you are permanently unable to work,
- Mental anguish,
- Pain and suffering,
- Loss of consortium.
If someone was tragically killed in a stairway accident, the victim's family members could file a wrongful death lawsuit against the liable owner. The potential damages that could be recovered include:
- Funeral and burial expenses,
- Amount, the deceased victim, would have earned as income, and
- Compensation for the loss of companionship and support.
Our personal injury lawyers can help you maximize your compensation because we know the actual value of the case.
Injury Justice Law Firm is based in Los Angeles County and serves victims throughout Southern California. You don't pay any fees unless we win your case. We offer a free case evaluation by calling (818) 781-1570.