Stairwell Fall Lawyer
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Injury experts call them “stairwell systems” and it’s amazing how many people are hurt each year from falling while going up or down a set of stairs. It’s estimated that as many as 5,000,000 people are hurt each year from these falls.
Here in Florida, stairs are everywhere: they are indoors and outdoors; covered and uncovered; carpeted and bare; some are several stories high and others are just a few steps to get you from poolside to the parking area. Stairway fall accidents are sometimes the cause of temporary injuries (like broken wrists, fractured ankles, cuts and bruises); but they can also cause permanent damage (paralysis, brain injury) and even death. Falling downstairs can be a life-changing event.
Read the law (from our blog): How Do You Know If A Business or Property Owner Acted Reasonably In Trying To Prevent A Stairway Slip and Fall Accident?
Research into stairway safety shows that the causes for most people being hurt in these accidents relate to:
1. Improper Height of Steps: Dangerous Rise
Stairways are complex structures made of materials like balusters; flights; landings; guardrails; posts; rises; runs; and slopes.
Stairsteps that rise at a height of 39 degrees have been found to cause a large percentage of all stair fall accidents. Some research shows stairs with a rise at a height of 40% or higher have been found to be involved in most stair falling deaths.
2. Surface of Steps
Tread surface is another major factor in stair fall injuries. Stair footpaths are made of all sorts of materials. Carpet, stone, ceramic tile, wood, marble, brick, and many other surfaces are found on Florida stairwell systems.
Tread surface needs to be more than an interior designer’s decision. The type of tread surface works with the rise of the steps and the movement of the human foot to help you climb or descend the stairs safely.
Tread surfaces need to support you. Slippery steps may look pretty in a hotel lobby but they may be extremely hazardous and causes of a serious fall.
Tread surfaces on outdoor stairwells need to be prepared for all sorts of weather conditions, too. Wet stairs during summer storms need to have tread surfaces with sufficient traction to enable people to rise and descend on the stairs regardless of hazardous weather conditions.
3. Incorrect Riser Height and Tread Depth
A stair riser is the height of one step. Stairways need to be built to accommodate our walking gait with enough room on each stair step to allow the foot to find a hold.
According to Chapter 10 of the Florida Building code, section 10111, the maximum riser height is 7″ and 4″ minimum. From the code:
1011.5.2 Riser height and tread depth.
Stair riser heights shall be 7 inches (178 mm) maximum and 4 inches (102 mm) minimum. The riser height shall be measured vertically between the nosings of adjacent treads. Rectangular tread depths shall be 11 inches (279 mm) minimum measured horizontally between the vertical planes of the foremost projection of adjacent treads and at a right angle to the tread’s nosing. Winder treads shall have a minimum tread depth of 11 inches (279 mm) between the vertical planes of the foremost projection of adjacent treads at the intersections with the walkline and a minimum tread depth of 10 inches (254 mm) within the clear width of the stair.
Please note, that there are exceptions in the Florida Building Code to these dimensions, including for spiral stairways and stairways connecting stepped aisles to cross aisles or concourses. (see Section 1011.10)
4. Broken, Missing or Faulty Handrails
Handrails are known to be a design favorite for architects and interior designers. Here in Florida, you can find unique rails along stairs made up of all sorts of things (nautical themed ropes, carved bone, etc.) and in creative dips and curves.
However, the most serious injuries (and deaths) in Florida stair accidents happen because of handrail failure in either (1) maintenance (broken, weak, wobbly)); (2) elevation from the stair path; or (3) design of the rail itself. Handrails along any stair path need to be built and maintained for their real purpose: keeping people safe as they move up and down the stairs.
Most stairwells will have a railing along at least one side (usually the right side as one descends) here in Florida. Others will have railings on both sides of the stairway. If the total rise of the stairway (from one level to the next) is over 30 inches, then safety protocols dictate that a handrail should be there for use when climbing or descending the stairs.
According to Florida Building Code, (Chapter 10, Section 1014), handrails should have the top of the rail no less than 30″ and not more than 34″ from the stair tread nosing (of course, there are exceptions to these measurements). These rails should be easy to see, sturdy, and solid.
Falls on stairs here in Florida can happen when proper care is not given to stairway handrails. A stair rail that is missing, that is loose, or that is broken can fail to help someone who is in need of that rail’s support as they walk the stairs. In these falls, it is the failure of the handrail, not the stairs themselves, which causes injury and harm.
5. Inadequate Lighting
All stairways and stairwells need to have proper lighting so they can be easily seen at any time of the day or night. There is a national standard for how stairs are to be lit, and most Florida building codes keep to this rule of one-foot candle (the amount of light given off by a single candle one foot away) at tread level.
Lighting the stairs is obviously important in dark places like theaters, bars, nightclubs, and auditoriums. However, stairs are also dangerous if they are not well-lit when they are placed in a spot where someone enters the stairway from the bright outdoors and needs some time before their vision accumulates to the change from outdoors to indoors.
Many Florida stair fall lighting accidents happen not because of a dark space, but because of the bright Florida sun and a failure of a stairwell to provide enough light to help eyesight transition from full sun to the interior stairwell.
6. Missing or Inconspicuous Warning Signs
Signs that alert you to the dangers of a stairway or stairwell are needed in many stair locations. If the stairs are outside where they may be wet and slippery, for instance, then special signs warning “slippery when wet” are needed.
Steep steps likewise need danger warnings like “watch your step” or “short step” or “please use handrails” to keep people safe as they use the stairs. This is particularly important if the owners or operators have reason to know that there are inherent dangers in the design of the stairs and/or the handrails.
The absence of warning signs can and does lead to stair fall injuries by unsuspecting victims due, in part, to hidden dangers.
Common Location Of Stairway Injuries
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a fall down the stairs, then it likely occurred at a:
- Office Building
- Parking Garage
Damages You Can Recover In A Stairway Fall
Just like any other serious personal injury, stairway falls can lead to compensation claims for medical bills, including therapy, and missed work. A serious incident involving this type of slip and fall can leave a victim with significant medical expenses, lost wages, and lingering health problems.
With the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney, you may be able to recover damages for:
- Pain and Suffering
- Medical Bills – Past and Future
- Lost Wages
- Workers Compensation
- Mental Anguish and Emotional Distress
- Loss of Consortium
Want to Know More? Talk With an Experienced Stairwell Fall Lawyer
Since 1982, Alan Sackrin has represented clients throughout Florida in recovering monetary damages for stairwell falls, and many other premises liability injuries. He has helped countless clients avoid being taken advantage of by insurance companies and their lowball offers.
Alan is a respected Board Certified Civil Trial lawyer that strives to protect the rights and best interests of his clients. Alan brings a high level of skill and representation to slip and fall cases. He offers a free and informative consultation, so call him today at 954-458-8655.
Related Slip and Fall Topics
Please feel free to read our other slip and fall (trip and fall) related articles, including:
- Slip and Falls in Hotels and Motels
- Slippery Conditions in Restaurants
- Condominium and HOA Slip and Fall Injuries
Do You Have a Question?
Please fill out the “Talk With An Attorney” form above to ask a question or you can call Alan Sackrin at 954-458-8655. He promises to get back to you promptly. Ask now.
Learn More: See Our Slip and Fall Resource Page