A misstep or tumble down a stairway can trigger a wave of fear and potentially lead to severe or even life-changing injuries. Each year, around a million people sustain injuries and an unfortunate 12,000 individuals lose their lives to stairway falls. If you've been injured due to a fall on a defective step or stairway, you might find yourself questioning who's at fault and if you have a valid claim for compensation. The personal injury lawyers at Bellotti Law Group, P.C. are committed to managing various hazardous property cases for individuals throughout the Greater Boston area.
Our team of seasoned attorneys will conduct a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances of your fall, offering advice on the strength of your claim against the property owner and any other parties potentially liable. We strive to secure the maximum compensation for you. If you're worried about the expense of legal services, you'll be relieved to know that our law firm operates on a contingency fee basis, meaning our payment depends on successfully recovering compensation for you.
Taking Immediate Action after a Stairway Fall
In case of a stairway fall while on someone else's property, it's imperative to seek prompt medical attention. Any delay could provide the property owner or their insurance company an opportunity to argue that your injuries were not a result of your fall. It's crucial to provide a detailed account of how, when, and where you were injured to all healthcare professionals attending to you. Medical notes and treatment records will be essential to link your injuries to the incident.
Documenting and Preserving Evidence
If possible, document the accident scene using your phone to take photos or videos of the faulty step, handrail, worn carpeting, or any other defect that may have caused or contributed to your fall. Keep photographic evidence of your injuries from the day of the incident and throughout the recovery process. Inform the building owner or manager about your fall and collect contact information of any witnesses. Preserving the clothes and shoes you were wearing at the time is also advisable in case someone tries to attribute the fall to your attire or footwear.
The Role of Personal Injury Attorney in Gathering Evidence
A personal injury attorney will assist you in gathering additional evidence. For example, if the incident took place in a store or another business, an attorney can aid in obtaining security footage of the incident and identifying the employees on duty at that time. Many businesses are equipped with security cameras both inside and outside their premises. Furthermore, an attorney can determine if the stairs were defective and identify the property owner or other party responsible for the unsafe condition. To recover damages, it must be proven that the property owner was negligent and that this negligence resulted in your injury. Damages may cover losses such as medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
The aforementioned research details the most frequent kinds of injuries resulting from stair fall accidents. These can include:
- Injuries to the lower extremities, such as organ damage or dislocations
- Internal bleeding
- Broken bones, often ankles or wrists (from an individual attempting to cushion their fall)
- Back/spine or neck injuries
- TBIs or traumatic brain injuries, like concussions
- Injuries to the head or neck, representing 21.6% of total injuries in the study
- Severe lacerations or wounds
- Spinal cord injuries, including potential paralysis
- Fractures, accounting for 19.3% of the injuries
- Sprains and strains, while comparatively minor, constituted the majority, or 32.3% of injuries in the study
Reasons for Stair Fall Accidents
Falls down the stairs are generally accidental. They can happen because an individual loses their balance or is preoccupied with a conversation. However, falls can also be due to:
- A loose or damaged handrail
- Absence of handrails on the stairs
- Damaged stairs or stair treads
- Frayed, loose, or misaligned carpeting
- Uneven steps
- Steps of inconsistent heights
- Obstructions on the stairway
- Slippery items or substances on the stairs
In certain instances, stair falls might not be purely accidental. For instance, construction teams working on a shared apartment building's stairs could create hazards, leading to accidents.
Locations of Stair Fall Accidents
Stair falls can occur in diverse locations, including one's own home. Many at-home stair falls are due to hazards left on the stairs during or after renovations.
Yet, these accidents can also occur in apartment buildings or other communal residences. Here, responsibility for stair upkeep often rests with property owners or management companies.
Stair falls may also happen outdoors or in public spaces, such as parks, sidewalks, subway stations, and more. In these areas, accidents may result from obstacles, other people's careless movement, or lack of maintenance from city officials.
Who is Most Susceptible to Stair Falls?
According to a 2017 study published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, those most at risk of stair falls include:
- The elderly
- Those with one or more mobility impairments (e.g., paraplegia, arthritis in the legs, etc.)
- Young children
The highest injury rates are among adults aged 85 and over and children under three. People aged 11 to 62 make up the majority, or 67% of individuals, who fall down stairs.
These groups are most likely to trip or make a misstep. However, even physically fit individuals can sustain serious injuries like broken bones and TBIs. The risk increases if the stairs are high or made of hard materials like concrete or steel.
How to Recognize a Serious Stair Fall?
Recognizing the severity of an injury following a stair fall can be challenging. Indicators of serious injuries may include:
- Back pain that intensifies or persists for several days or weeks
- Recurring headaches, potentially signaling a concussion
- Increased sensitivity to light or loud noises
- Blurry vision
- Persistent muscle weakness
- Swelling in the affected areas
- Numbness in the extremities or in the groin or genital areas
- Unrelenting pain that doesn't respond to painkillers.
Workplace Safety and Preventive Measures
Workers are not exempt from stairway slips, trips, and fall incidents. The Occupational Health and Safety Administration has formulated stair safety regulations for employers to implement at job sites, including provisions for handrails on every staircase, uniform riser heights and tread depths, and more. Employees can protect themselves by using handrails, taking steps one at a time, and reporting any safety concerns, while employers can ensure regular inspections and adequate lighting.
Reach Out for Legal Support
For more information on how our premises liability attorneys can assist you or a loved one with a defective step or stairway claim, contact Bellotti Law Group, P.C. today for a free consultation.