The Liability of Property Owners in Elevator-related Accidents

Accidents occurring on escalators are far more frequent than elevator-related accidents. In the 1990s, the yearly average of escalator-related accidents was 4,900. Since then, the number has increased to about 10% every year so that in 2013, the number has climbed to 12,260. Children, 14 and under, and senior citizens, at least 65 years old, are the most common victims in these accidents.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says that falls is first in the list of escalator-related injuries and deaths (the CPSC is the branch of the U.S. Federal government that is charged with protecting American consumers and families from products that pose fire, chemical, electrical, or mechanical hazards). From 1985 to 1999, 21 out of the 27 escalator-related deaths were due to falls.

Falls are classified either as “falls on” or “falls from” escalators. “Falls from,” or “falls over-the-side,” refers to a person falling outside of an escalator into adjacent open spaces; “falls on” or “falls down,” on the other hand, refers to a person who remains inside the elevator wellway as he or she falls.

Despite the many incidences of injuries and deaths due accidents in escalators, escalator hazards which the escalator industry has known for decades and which they can easily correct through safer designs, have often been obscured even in litigations. This is due to the overwhelming success of the escalator industry in convincing both the media and accident investigators that accidents, especially falls, are due to intoxication, horseplay, and gross misuse of riders.

It is important for the public to know that premises owners and manufacturers of elevators and escalators have contracts which require the latter to provide ongoing support and maintenance services, including annual inspection after initial installation. It is also important to note that, rather than horseplay, intoxication or grave misuse, the dangerous conditions which often lead to escalator accidents are maintenance related or failure by the manufacturer to retrofit readily available safety devices – a failure premises owners choose to overlook. These are actually nothing short of acts of negligence, the basis of many premises liability litigations and claims.

As emphasized explained by the law firm Schuler, Halvorson, Weisser, Zoeller & Overbeck, P.A., elevators should be maintained correctly or they can cause people to trip and fall or even be trapped. Injuries that may arise as a result of property owners’ neglect to keep elevators in good working condition will render them totally accountable.

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