Premises Liability in Staircase Accidents
One of the most common scenarios in a premises liability claim is a fall on a staircase. Children and the elderly are most vulnerable to accidents here since it takes a certain degree of awareness, physical capability and caution when ascending or descending a staircase, but falls can happen to anyone. However, merely because you fell and were injured does not necessarily mean that the property owner is liable. A careful investigation of the facts and circumstances of the fall, an examination of the staircase and whether a defect existed that caused the fall must be undertaken, usually at the direction of a capable premises liability lawyer.
Elements of a Staircase Slip and Fall Claim
To have an actionable claim against a landlord or property owner regarding a fall on a staircase, you must prove each element of a slip and fall, or premises liability cause of action, by the civil standard of proof by a preponderance of the evidence. This is proof of liability that is more than 50%. These elements include:
- The owner or landlord was responsible for or caused the defect in the stair or stairway or an object left on it
- That the defect or carelessly left object caused the accident and injuries
- That the landlord or agent either knew of the defect or object or by the exercise of reasonable care in maintaining the property should have been aware of it
- That no measures were taken to warn or to remedy the defect
For a landlord to be liable in a residential setting, the stairway must have been in a common area. If the defective stairway was in a rental unit, the landlord might be liable if he or she was responsible for faulty work on the staircase or was aware of should have been aware of the defect and failed to fix it.
Examples of Dangers on Staircases
Homeowners do not ordinarily have a duty to inspect their property for hidden dangers but do have a duty to either repair or to warn of dangerous conditions that are apparent or of which they should reasonably have been aware. Some examples of defects on staircases include:
- Worn or torn carpet or rug
- Slippery or polished wood
- Ice and snow on outside staircases
- Lack of handrails or improperly installed or constructed
- The height and depth of the stair risers violate a building code
- Objects left on staircases
- Inadequate lighting for outdoor staircases
A source for establishing liability is by reviewing the applicable municipal or county building code and determining if the stairs’ height and depth were within the variance height found in the code. Having steps of different heights or depth can easily cause someone to become disoriented or lose their balance. Most codes require handrails to be installed in certain ways or to be of a certain height. A stairway that violates the building code is strong evidence of liability if you can show that this was the cause of your accident.
Damages in a Stairway Fall Case
A premises liability claim, which includes holding the property owner liable for your fall on a staircase, can involve substantial damages. A fall can easily result in head injuries, a broken pelvis, limbs and spinal cord injuries. Your stair case premises liability lawyer can help you establish and prove the following damages:
- Loss of earnings
- Past and future medical expenses
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Spousal claim for loss of consortium
It often takes your premises liability lawyer to not only obtain your medical and employment records, but to have your health care provider certify that you were unable to work at your job for a certain time or can no longer perform the duties required for your job. If you have a permanent disability, your physician needs to quantify it and state the nature and extent of your physical restrictions. In some cases, extreme depression from your inability to return to your normal recreational or daily activities can devastate an injured victim, which needs to be documented by a psychologist or psychiatrist. Lastly, if your injuries are serious, your attorney can request that your health care provider comment on the likelihood you will need future treatment, estimate its probable cost and give a prognosis.
Paul Tetzel is an experienced and well-regarded lawyer from Boston who has will advocate for your rights to the full extent of the law. Since evidence from such cases can easily disappear, contacting him promptly after an accident is imperative if you want to have the best opportunity to obtain the most compensation for your slip and fall claim.