When was the last time you thought about the safety of a stairway? If you are like most individuals, the answer would be “Never.” We often take stairways for granted: If they look normal and do not have any obvious damage to them, we assume that the stairway will bear our weight as we travel from one elevation to another. This will be more true when the stairway is made out of a solid-looking material (such as concrete). However, stairways can become damaged and dangerous if they are not properly maintained. Even where obvious defects are noticed and corrected, a stairway can deteriorate in integrity simply because of the passage of time and the wear and tear that accompanies constant use. When a stairway does collapse, the results are often catastrophic.
Dangers of Stairway Collapses
A stairway collapse may be partial or total. When a “total” stairway collapse occurs, the center portion of the stairway collapses and caves in, leaving a hole between the bottom stair and the top step. A person who is caught on a stairway as it experiences a total collapse will likely fall straight down. He or she may be struck with debris from the stairway. If he or she lands on his or her feet, his or her feet and legs will likely experience severe injuries (depending on how far the person fell).
A partial collapse occurs when a portion of one or more stairs gives way. For example, the crumbing of a portion of a concrete step could be classified as a partial collapse if the rest of the stair structure remains in place. Partial collapses are no less serious than total collapses: A person who steps on a stair only to find that the stair has collapsed underneath his or her weight will often fall forward, either down (or up) the stairway. This situation makes the likelihood of a head injury especially high. A person who falls up or down a stairway because of a partial stairway collapse may attempt to brace him- or herself by extending his or her hands. While this may help the person avoid a head or neck injury, this will almost certainly cause serious hand, wrist, and arm injuries.
Who is Liable for a Stairway Collapse?
Property owners have a general responsibility to inspect their property – including stairways – if they intend on having others come onto their property for business or pleasure. This means that property owners should regularly inspect the integrity of their stairways and repair any obvious defects or dangerous conditions they may find. In addition, property owners should make sure stairways are well lit and have appropriate railings. Failing to take these reasonable steps may result in the property owner being held responsible for the losses and expenses of any injury victims. This does not mean that the property owner is always responsible for stairway collapses, however.
The company that designed and/or installed the stairway may be held responsible for a victim’s injuries, too. (If the property owner would not have known about the defective design or installation, the company that designed or installed the stairway may be the only entity from whom compensation may be obtained.) For example, a company or person who is pouring a concrete stairway and who uses a weak concrete mixture or who allows impurities to seep into the concrete may be held responsible for victims’ injuries if that stairway later collapses.
Similarly, stairways must comply with certain building codes. A design firm that specifies that a stairway be constructed in a manner that is at odds with prevailing building codes and practices may be held responsible for its negligent design if the stairway collapses after being constructed according to the design firm’s specifications.
As can be seen, it is important to have stairway collapse injuries thoroughly investigated so that all responsible parties can be identified and held to account for their actions and behaviors. Although it may seem simple to bring suit against the property owner only, doing so in every case can disadvantage the injury victim by depriving him or her of full compensation for his or her injuries.
Stern Law, PLLC is Available to Assist Stairway Collapse Injury Victims
Being injured in a stairway collapse incident can mean significant medical expenses and time missed from work (not to mention pain and mental anguish). Stern Law, PLLC is a compassionate and zealous personal injury law firm dedicated to helping you obtain financial compensation for your losses so that you can focus on putting your life back together. Call us after an injury and we will advise you of your precise legal rights. If you retain our firm’s services, we will devote our firm’s knowledge and resources to resolving your case as successfully and efficiently as possible. Call Stern Law, PLLC today at (844) 808-7529 and discuss your case with us today.