Over the last century or so, elevators have become ubiquitous in American businesses, hotels, hospitals, and any other buildings taller than two stories high. However, this increase in elevator traffic has also led to an uptick in accidents and subsequent injuries, sometimes even resulting in death. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), in the U.S. about 30 people are killed in elevator accidents annually, and over 15,000 more are severely injured.
With constant use everyday, we can become accustomed to them always working properly. However, elevators are robust pieces of equipment that require constant maintenance and upkeep. Unfortunately, the risks are just as high for elevator workers as well, as they account for nearly half of annual elevator fatalities– 14 out of 31, on average.
After seeing the figures mentioned above, it’s safe to say that elevator accidents are a common occurrence, more common than you may have thought previously. Whether you’re a patron of a business or hotel or an elevator worker, you deserve to be properly compensated for your injuries. Accident victims should consider enlisting the help of a Van Law Firm elevator accident attorney, in order to maximize reimbursement.
Types of Elevators and Elevator Accidents
There are multiple types of elevators that are commonly seen– for our purposes here we will be focusing primarily on commercial passenger elevators. Other types include freight carriers, temporary construction elevators, and home elevators and dumbwaiters.
Commercial elevators are powered either by cables and motors or by hydraulic pistons. Hydraulic elevators require a piston be dug into the ground, which is complicated and costly; as such, nearly all buildings taller than two stories use traditional cable-car elevators. On any given ride, they are expected to stop within a half-inch of the properly selected floor, and the doors to both the elevator car and the floor itself are supposed to open simultaneously. The doors should not close and the car should not move until all exiting passengers have done so.
With so many moving parts, it’s easy to see why there are so many possible accidents that can occur, including but not limited to:
- Falls in elevator shafts or “hoistways”
- Elevator car or platform partial or total collapse
- Trapped between moving parts
- Struck by either the elevator car or counterweight
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has noted the additional risks for children, as they can easily cause an accident unknowingly or become trapped in hard-to-reach places. As far as elevator doors, the commission warns that kids “have been crushed to death” between door gaps, and have also suffered back injuries and suffocation.
Possible Elevator Accident Causes
There are numerous potential causes for any elevator accident. Depending on how the accident occurred and how severe it was, the root cause may be traced back to one of the following reasons:
- Incompetent or negligent elevator workers
- Lack of maintenance, routine inspection
- Lack of proper safety guards and fall protection measures in elevator cars
- Exposed shafts with no barriers to prevent patrons from falling
- Leaving elevators in service even when they are being repaired
- Premature or aggressive door closures
- Manufacturer mechanical failure
Due to the weight and force of elevators and their components, elevator accidents usually result in severe injuries, such as broken bones or crushed limbs, concussions and traumatic brain injury, suffocation, paralysis, and death.
Legally, when an elevator accident takes place, the legal liability may fall on the property owner, the elevator installer, the maintenance company, or the manufacturer. As you might expect, property owners are the most common defendant, because they have the most responsibility.
Building owners are expected to follow multiple service guidelines, depending on the state. Some states require a separate annual inspection with state-licensed inspectors, but all properties are expected to hold their own inspections at least monthly. These are usually done on a contract basis year-round by maintenance personnel. However, they are also supposed to independently judge the effectiveness of their own maintenance, by recording all their malfunctions and accidents over time to see if they are actually being reduced. Failure to do one or all of these measures may make property owners vulnerable to a negligence claim, which would involve the following arguments:
- Duty of care: By admitting you into their property, owners are responsible for ensuring that elevators are working properly.
- Breach of duty: The owners breached this duty by acting negligently or not maintaining elevators properly.
- Causation: Their negligence was the cause of the accident that occured.
- Damages: As a result of the accident, you suffered damages, both physically and financially.
Occasionally, the maintenance crew will be the responsible party, if it is discovered that their work was either incomplete or inadequate. These companies take detailed notes of their work, but if an accident happens and there is little to no documentation on its safety, the contractor may be sued for negligence, using the same criteria as above.
In very rare cases, the accident will be the result of a component or mechanical failure. Such a case would fall under a defective product claim, in which the manufacturer would be held liable for the damage that was caused by their faulty products.
Elevator Accident Attorneys
When you’ve been injured in an elevator accident, the Las Vegas and Washington elevator accident attorneys from Van Law Firm are the right choice to maximize your compensation and get you the proper treatment to get back as close to full health as possible. With nearly 500 5-star reviews, it’s easy to see why we’re one of the most trusted personal injury firms in the nation. Call our location nearest you today for a free, no-obligation consultation.