Table of Contents
- 1 Overview
- 2 Common causes of falls in staircases
- 3 Building codes to ensure the safety of staircases
- 4 Common injuries from fall down the stairs
- 5 What Alarms the Need for Medical Attention
- 6 Can you claim for falling down stairs?
- 7 Who are liable for your injuries?
- 8 Premises liability law
- 9 Insurance to cover the fall down the stairs injuries
- 10 Common queries on staircase accidents
- 11 Final Thoughts
Watch your step before you tread onto a staircase as you don’t know what surprise it has for you. This is not just a warning but something we must always adhere to. Statistics record that falling down the stairs is the second most prominent cause of injuries after motor vehicle accidents, in the United States.
The NCBI had noted that
- Around 1 million people are getting treated in the emergency room for a fall down the stairs per annum.
- Sprains and strains are the common injuries, and soft tissue injuries and fractures follow closely.
- Younger children and older adults sustained more injuries.
- Head or neck injuries in children and fractures in the elderly.
- Major body injuries are to the lower extremity, followed by the head or neck.
- More than 12,000 people lose their precious lives every year.
- More females are injured than males.
- More falls occur in homes.
All these stairway accidents statistics prove that one must be extra cautious while on the stairs. This blog tries to analyze the causes and consequences of staircase accidents and the premises liability law that ensures your compensation.
Common causes of falls in staircases
Slip and fall accidents are common in the U.S, due to various reasons. However, only certain causes make it more dangerous and lead to lawsuits.
- Slithery steps: The steps made of polished tiles or wood themselves would be slithery to careful walkers as well as the jaywalkers. Such steps would not give grip while stepping on them. It could cause detrimental accidents to all.
- Snow-covered or icy: During the winter season, the snow-covered or icy steps pose a great threat to all stair users. Improper maintenance or failure to remove snow or icy sheets on the steps would make them dangerous traps.
- Liquid spills: Failing to mop off the liquid spills also leads to serious falls down the stairs.
- Torn carpets: When using the stairway carpets, there are chances for them to be torn after frequent use. The damaged carpets may be slippery or can trip those who step on them.
- Under lighting: Poor lighting on the stairs is another major reason for the dreadful staircase accidents. High-powered lighting should be placed to avoid mishaps. Some poor-quality LED lamps will take some time to brighten up the area.
- Improper handrails: Hand railings placed at the wrong heights, loosened handrails, missing handrails are also the reasons for staircase accidents.
- Uneven or missing steps: Broken or missing steps would be dangerous. The uneven risers and runs also would be misleading and could cause a fall down the stairs. Rotten stair boards could break at any time leading to accidents.
- Cluttered stairway: Stairways should be clutter-free. If unwanted stuff is stacked up on the stairway, it will lead to trips and falls.
Building staircases abiding by the codes discussed below and proper maintenance of the stairs would prevent most of the falls. In case of damaged stairs, the users should be warned.
Building codes to ensure the safety of staircases
The International Residential Code (IRC) is followed in building stairs for residential buildings in the U.S. It decrees that the stair raiser can be up to 7.75 inches. The minimum breadth must be 36 inches. The depth of the run should be 10 inches and with nosing. Without the nosing, the depth should be 11 inches. The breadth and depth must not differ more than 3/8 of an inch.
The International Building Code (IBC) mandates staircase codes for commercial buildings. The IBC and IRC codes have mild variations. The IBC dictates a 4 to 7 inches height for the riser and an 11 inches depth for the run. The stair tread nosing need not be there if the depth is 11 inches.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) ordains that all the risers and runs should have equal breadth and depth to prevent falls. It also adds that the stair runs should not be thrust forward more than ½ an inch than the riser and it should not be pointed but curved.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) stresses that the hand railings should be 30 to 38 inches high from the tread. The top rails must be 42 inches in height.
There may be variations to these codes depending on the state you are in. If all the buildings are constructed or modified following the dimensions set by IBC, IRC, or ADA, most of the fall down the stairs can be averted.
Common injuries from fall down the stairs
Since we have to ascend and descend many steps during our lifetime, the chances of falling down the stairs cannot be eluded. What type of injuries can you suffer from a fall down the stairs? As we have seen in the falls on stair statistics, falls down the steps can cause minor as well as major injuries. Let’s delve deep into the prominent injuries, a fall down the stairs can produce.
Mild injuries after a fall are:
- Sprains and Strains: The ligaments and tendons in the arms, legs, or knees undergo tears and stretching due to the fall. In order to protect ourselves from the fall, we tend to use our hands while landing. This will lead to sprains on our wrists.
- Bruises: Bruises to the arms or legs or especially to the buttocks cannot be evaded during a fall down the stairs.
- Minor abrasions: Hitting against the steps or railings can produce abrasions to the body parts that come into contact with the stairs.
Major back injuries from falling down the stairs are:
- Head or neck injuries: Concussions, Traumatic brain injuries, and neck injuries could be serious when falling down the stairs. Falling head-on will definitely have an impact on the cervical spine or the brain.
- Herniated discs: A hard fall on the top of the steps would make the person roll on the steps and get multiple injuries all over the body. Herniated discs would be one such when the back hits against multiple steps. Severe damage to the spinal cord could even end up one’s life in bed forever.
- Fractures: Dreadful fall down the stairs could lead to fractures to the hip, arms, or legs. Fractures in the hip would be dangerous, as the hip needs to be in good condition for free movements.
- Dislocations: When the joints on hands, legs, hip, etc., dislocates during the fall, it ensues in unmanageable pain.
- Internal injuries: The fall becomes fatal when it causes internal hemorrhages. A blow to the internal organs could create damage or bruise to the organs to have hemorrhages or blood clots.
- Lacerations: Hitting against the broken steps or railing could cause serious lacerations to the body parts.
What Alarms the Need for Medical Attention
Not all falls need medical attention. However, you could have delayed pain after falling down the stairs. Due to the adrenaline rush, you may not be aware of soft tissue injuries. You may be unaware of soft tissue injuries due to the adrenaline rush. Only after the adrenaline levels drop will the pain be felt. Getting a comprehensive medical evaluation as soon as possible following a fall will help detect any underlying damage. This will make it easier for you to get the medical help you require.
Early documentation of your injuries will strengthen your claim during the litigation. When you neglect your injuries from the outset, the defendant’s insurance has a clear opportunity to cast doubt on your ailments. Delaying treatment will increase the severity of your injuries and may necessitate additional treatment.
Let’s see when the fall alarms the need for medical attention. When you experience the following, never delay getting immediate medical help.
- Brief or long loss of consciousness
- Severe headache
- Broken bones
- Unstoppable bleeding
- Weakness in any body parts
- No clarity while speaking
Can you claim for falling down stairs?
If you happen to fall down the stairs on someone else’s property like the landowners, commercial buildings, or public entities, you can sue them for your injuries. As the owners of all these properties are responsible to build and maintain the staircases safe to tread on, they are liable for your suffering.
Who are liable for your injuries?
Depending on the premises where you fell, the individuals, company, or entity that is responsible for your injuries will be held liable.
- The staircase manufacturing company
- The designer or the architect
- The contractor or the builder who constructs the stairs
- The building owner
- The people who take care of the maintenance work
- The insurance companies
Premises liability law
The landowner has the responsibility to keep his premises safe from falls and other injuries to the people who visit his premises. The home owner’s liability differs depending on the state. Most states have classified the people who are injured on others’ property as invitees, licensees, and trespassers. The owner has high liability in protecting the invitees as they are invited by the owner to his property for some business purposes.
The licensees are people licensed to visit private property but not for business purposes. The property owner is obligated to warn the licensee of the dangerous steps or should keep a legible warning sign at a noticeable place. If the owner has warned the licensees beforehand, he will be relieved of his liability.
Trespassers are people who have no legal right to visit private property. If the unanticipated trespassers are injured, the owner cannot be held liable. He has no responsibility to warn the trespassers, other than keeping a signboard of the potential dangers.
Most states stress that business owners must ensure the safety of the visitors or customers. The commercial property liability emphasizes that the business owner should be always aware of the possible slip and fall hazards on the stairs on his premises. He is responsible to repair all the defects in the stairs and make them safe for the users.
The business owners should warn the stair users of the possible danger through a signboard. However, if the sign is illegible or under inadequate lighting, which prevents the board from being noticeable clearly, he can be held liable.
If a staircase accident occurs, the property owner, the tenants, or the people who are responsible for the maintenance can be held liable for the injuries caused to the third party.
Insurance to cover the fall down the stairs injuries
- Private Property Owner’s Liability insurance covers the landowners and landlords from the claims against them when a third party gets injured or falls on their property.
- The homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy covers when someone falls down the stairs on your house or your premises.
- Commercial general liability insurance is necessary for business owners to cover all the injuries that occur to the people who use the commercial property.
- Workers’ compensation insurance covers the injuries of the employees when they fall down the stairs. Each company is responsible for providing quality coverage for its employees.
Common queries on staircase accidents
Before winding up, let’s clear some of the common queries on the fall down the stairs accidents.
What should I do after a fall down the stairs?
- Never panic. Check if you have any injury, pain, or bleeding.
- If you are alone, try to move away from the staircase.
- If you cannot move after the fall, try to call loudly to attract the attention of other people.
- If you have a mobile, call your family members or 911 for help.
- Get medical attention, if you feel uncomfortable.
How to prove liability in staircase accidents?
In a premises liability lawsuit, to prove that the property owner was negligent in causing your injuries, you need to substantiate that
- The property owner or the employee who maintains the stairs was responsible for your injuries.
- The property owner was aware of the dangerous condition of the stairs but failed to repair that.
- The property owner has the responsibility to have knowledge of the defects of the stairs and should have repaired that.
Are you responsible if someone falls down your stairs?
It cannot be answered in yes or no as many factors involve in deciding the liability. Though you are responsible to keep your stairs safe for everyone, if a trespasser gets injured, you cannot be held liable. If any people you have invited or the licensees get injured, you have to compensate for their injuries.
Can I sue my landlord if I slipped down the stairs?
Falling down on your landlord’s property and getting injured does not simply qualify you for any compensation. You have to prove that the landlord was negligent in repairing the damaged staircase and caused your injuries. You can even check if the staircase was built abiding by the staircase codes for the risers and runs or the height of the handrails, which caused your accident. However, remember that you cannot sue him if you fell down due to your carelessness on a safe staircase.
Dangers of falling are everywhere, and the staircase is not an exception. Be watchful of your every step on the stairs. When you happen to fall on the steps, move away carefully from the defective steps and detect the reason for your fall. If possible, document the defective steps or the clutter that let you fall in photo or video. Photograph your injuries, if any. Get the statement of any witness. Seek medical attention on time as even the common injuries from falling down stairs lead to serious aftermath.
Availing the abetment of a premises liability lawyer will do great wonders when you are injured falling down the stairs. Evidence of the premises owner’s negligence will boost your claim and help you collect the compensation for falling down the stairs.
Depending on the gravity of your injuries and your degree of negligence, you can acquire your restitution. High recoupment can be availed if head or traumatic brain injuries occur. If your carelessness too contributed to the fall, your restitution will be reduced.
Look before you step onto a stair and stay away from injuries.