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Steven W. Harris, Attorney At Law Blog

Suffer a Fall Down the Stairs? Who's at Fault?

Any fall introduces the risk of injury, but a fall down a flight of stairs opens the door to severe injury. Bone dislocations, broken bones, internal organ damage, and traumatic brain injury are just some of the common injuries stair-fall victims face.

Did you fall down the steps at a shopping mall, office building, or another place of business? A simple misstep on your part might not be to blame. Learn who might be responsible for your injuries to determine if you have a valid claim for compensation.

Code Violations

A step consists of two main parts: a riser and a tread. The riser is the vertical part of the step; the tread is the horizontal part where you rest your foot. Building code guidelines establish a maximum and a minimum for the height of each riser and the depth of each tread. Staircases constructed absent these requirements are a serious safety hazard.

If you lost your balance because the distance between each step was too far or you did not have adequate space to plant your foot, a code violation could be the reason for your injury. Help prove your claim by comparing the staircase's measurements to the building code requirements.

A lack of handrails might also serve as a code violation. Staircases with more than four risers or that exceed 30 inches in height must have handrails.

Poor Upkeep

The height of a staircase makes it inherently dangerous, but the material used on the tread's surface is an equal contributor to the threat when not maintained adequately. A lack of maintenance could be to blame for your fall. For example, with age and wear, carpet fibers may loosen and unravel. Even a small piece of a displaced carpet fiber creates a tripping hazard.

For hard surfaces, such as wood, applying a polishing agent can make the tread incredibly slippery. Building owners and managers are responsible for properly maintaining stair surfaces. Write down any information you remember about slipping or tripping before you fell. Your attorney can use this information to help support your claim that the steps were in poor condition.

Slippery steps due to weather conditions, such as rain that the building owner has failed to wipe away, also fall into this category. However, you may need to prove that you were exercising caution, such as not running down the steps, for your claim to be successful. 

Inadequate Lighting

Inadequate lighting can make an otherwise safe staircase dangerous. The entire span of the stairs should be well lit. When the area is too dark, a person can't see where the staircase starts or ends. A person will also not be able to ensure that they are safely planting their foot down with each step.

Blaming poor lighting as a contributor to your injuries is easy. Proving that the building owner is at fault for the poor lighting is more of a challenge. If there were no lights installed near the staircase, the blame can easily be placed in the direction of the building owner.

However, if there was a light, but the bulb was out, you would need to prove that the building owner was aware of the concern. For example, if the bulb went out the same day you fell, the owner may argue that they did not know about the issue. 

Recovery from a fall is a sometimes long and costly journey. If you are not responsible for your fall, you do not deserve to suffer. At Steven W. Harris, Attorney at Law, we want to help you. Contact us so that we can discuss your situation.