Owners of property are legally required to ensure the safety of that property to the best of their abilities. Property safety is controlled by premises liability law and the principle is that the owner or party responsible for maintaining the property may be held liable for any injuries suffered by a person as a result of the dangerous nature of the property.
In addition to the normal considerations of slip and fall cases, staircase accidents are often more complicated. Stairs come with inherent dangers not usually present on level surfaces and some defects in stairs may remain hidden, even after an incident.
A common hidden staircase danger is worn-down carpet or wood that makes the “run” section of a stair (the part your foot lands on) dangerous. Often a slightly worn stair or carpet is more perilous than obviously worn stairs because you are not likely to notice the danger.
Some stairs are made of tile or highly polished wood that is more slippery than stone, carpet, or painted wood. If you fall on one of these stairs, the property owner might be liable for sacrificing safety for aesthetics.
Rain or ice collecting on outdoor stairs increases the risk of incidents. Although you are required to use extra caution in these weather conditions, this duty does not end the question of the owner’s negligence. Outdoor stairs must be built and maintained to avoid excessive build-up of water or ice and must have surfaces that don’t become extra-slippery when wet.
Apart from the maintenance obligations of owners, the construction of a staircase must also meet with minimum standards and requirements. Handrails are required for certain types of stairs and are often required to be of a particular width and/or height. If you fall on stairs that should have a handrail and the lack of inadequacy of a handrail contributed to your fall, the owner is likely liable for your injuries.
The vertical and horizontal parts of each step are called the “riser” and the “run” respectively. Maximum and minimum measurements are prescribed for the riser height and run depth as well as the maximum differences permitted in the height or depth of any one step from another. The variance standard is important because when we go up or down stairs, our brains remember how far the last step was and automatically tell our legs to move the same distance the next time. If the leg moves the same distance but the step isn’t in the same place (even if the difference is only slight) you may lose your balance and fall.
Other causes of staircase accidents include:
- Poor lighting
- Debris on the steps
- Handrail not tightly secured
Talk to a Staircase Accident specialist advisor today