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Some inventions turn out groundbreaking and revolutionary. No doubt, escalators are aforesaid. With the invention of escalators, a universe of opportunity was unlocked in the arena of commerce. Thanks to Charles Seeberger, people could ascend into the air or descend into the depths. The word escalator was coined by merging ‘scala’, the Latin word for steps with the word ‘elevator’.
Did you know? In the US over 30,000 escalators are there, helping around 90 billion riders every year. Let it be the department stores, shopping malls, airports, railway stations, hotels, arenas, stadiums or public spaces, these massive machines have become an inevitable part of our life.
“An escalator can never break: it can only become stairs”. They never become unusable even during a breakdown or power issue.
An escalator is a power-driven, continuous moving stairway to take passengers up and down short vertical distances. It consists of a top and a landing platform along with the tracks, gears and motors that drive the stairs.
Stirring deep into the mechanical complexities of an escalator is not my intent. I just want to point out, being a mechanical innovation how obvious a defect and escalator accident would be. However, moving further we would have a gaze on the working of escalators in relation to accidents.
Causes of Escalator Accidents
Reports suggest that annually there are approximately 10,000 escalator accident injuries in the United States and each year it is growing at a rate of 10%. The majority of the escalator accidents take place from falls. However, 20% of them are due to entrapment caused by the faulty design of the escalator. The below-mentioned are the commonly reported reasons for escalator accidents.
- Clothing or a shoelace getting trapped in the escalator
- Missing teeth on the escalator track
- Spontaneous escalator failure or emergency stop
- Overcrowding causing shoving or falls
- Excessive space between the steps and the escalator sides
- Broken or missing steps
- Problems in the handrail
- Loose or missing screws
Injuries from Escalator accidents
Escalators in the US are manufactured following the standards set by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). There are situations where the escalators do not meet the safety guidelines which may result in devastating injuries in the commuters. Studies point out that escalator accidents are disproportionately represented by children of five years old and under, and adults of 65 years and older. Many of these injuries are life-altering, and recovery can take months or even years.
Let’s check out what are the common injuries associated with an accident on escalator.
- Bone fractures
- Torn ligaments
- Crushed limbs or digits
- Head injuries
- Back injuries
- Strains and sprains
See how a disabled woman injured in an escalator accident.
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) December 31, 2017
What Next After an Escalator Accident?
The moments after an accident would be chaotic and the same is the condition afer an escalator accident. You should immediately get medical attention for any injury or pain. Keep in mind that mild injuries may leave you in life-threatening pain and disability. Consulting a physician without delay would prevent the defendant party from arguing that your injuries were not that severe enough to get medical help.
If possible try to photograph the accident scene. This would definitely be an asset to demonstrate that there was a dangerous condition on the premises that caused the accident. Pictures may also establish how the accident happened. Try to collect the contact details of individuals who had witnessed the accident. Report the accident to the premises manager, or someone with authority over the building. It would be better if you could file a written report including the date, time, and place of the accident. Retain a copy of the report.
Never go for any settlement with the premises owner or the manager. Do not give any statement about your injury to anyone around, especially to the insurance companies.
Premises Liability in Escalator Accident Claims
After an escalator accident, you may be confused about who might be held liable for your injury and how to obtain compensation for your damages. Your goal should be reaching out for legal help. Most of the escalator accidents fall under premises liability due to the unsafe condition on the property. An able attorney skilled in premises liability claims can help you obtain compensation for the injuries you sustain from the escalator accident.
Depending upon the case, there may be multiple parties accountable for your injury. The cause of the injury will assist in identifying who is liable, and your accident and injuries may be inflicted by multiple parties. Some of the common defendants in an escalator accident are
- The manager of the premises
- The owner of the premises
- The manufacturing company of the escalator
- The company that is responsible for maintaining the escalator
The fault remains with the property owner if you are on an escalator that is performing erratically, such as making unexpected jerks or a sudden stop that leads you to collapse. It is the owner’s responsibility under premises liability legislation to keep the elevator in good working order for the commuters. In most of the claims, the claimant only needs to establish that the owner of the premises is legally responsible for the accident.
The owner or manager of the property is responsible for maintaining the escalator following the safety advice ensuring that all known threats are addressed on the dot. They also must have an obligation to warn the users of any hazards in the escalator like slippery surfaces, broken handrails, and defective escalators.
If the injury is a result of your negligence like texting and using the escalator, claiming the damage would be complicated. There are three categories of premises liability laws implemented in the United States. All these laws take into consideration, the liability of the claimant and the defendant in the accident.
- Pure comparative fault
When both the complainant and the defendant are at fault, the jury assigns fault, normally in the form of a percentage. It depends on how much of the accident is your fault. The law states that if you are partially responsible for an escalator accident, you may not recover the full compensation for your damages.
- Modified comparative fault
States like Arkansas uses a modified comparative negligence standard for assigning blame for escalator accidents. Under modified comparative fault, there are two types of rules which vary between different states in the US.
- 50% bar rule- The victim is not entitled to premises liability compensation if he is found more than 50% accountable for the accident.
- 51% bar rule- The victim is not entitled to premises liability compensation if he is found more than 51% responsible for the accident.
- Contributory negligence
Under contributory negligence, a victim is prohibited from pursuing a claim if his negligence also contributed to the accident. Even if the defendant’s negligence is far more severe, the plaintiff won’t be entitled to proceed with the claim if he is found to have even 1% fault.
Under Florida law, statute of limitation to file an escalator accident claim is four years from the date of injury where as in Arkansas it is three years. The victim should file the claim with in the window assigned by each state. Any claim filed after the statute of limitation would be rejected by the court.
Injuries sustained by other rider’s negligence would fall into the scope of personal injury litigation and not of premises liability.
A premises liability attorney would be familiar with the possible defendant arguments to deny the claim which may support your litigation. He would gather the necessary evidence from photographs and videos from the surveillance cameras. They collect and organize the medical records. Offshoring the medical charts to expert medical record review companies would make the medical records review speedy and efficient.
Premises liability attorneys accurately evaluate your claim and communicate with the insurance company. It would proceed towards a negotiation phase. If the defendant is not ready for a reasonable settlement, the claim would be taken for trial.
Escalator injury settlement will rely on the extent of damage and medical expenses and the attorney would advise on what fair compensation should be in your claim. The following are the different types of compensation available in an escalator accident lawsuit.
- Current medical expenses
- Future medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Loss of Earnings
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of companionship
How to Prevent Escalator Accidents
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Escalator accidents are more frequent than you imagine, especially during peak hours. The resulting injuries may be terrifying and life-changing ordeal. Even while we rely on these machines to help us keep up with our hectic schedules, if they are not properly installed and maintained, they can represent a major threat.
The defendants in the case will almost certainly do everything they can to disclaim their liability and fight an otherwise strong allegation. Without a premises liability lawyer, fight for the full compensation you will need to recover would be a back-breaking mission.