Some of the most serious kinds of slip-and-falls are those that occur on stairways. There are two factors that tend to make stairway slip-and-fall accidents more dangerous than others:
- The element of height;
- The potential for the body to strike numerous hard surfaces before reaching the ground.
At Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, we know stairway accidents can result in serious, even fatal injuries. Because the risk of severe injury is so high in stairwells, property owners have a duty to be aware of potential dangers and to regularly ensure stairwells are hazard-free.Stairway Accident Statistics
The journal ISRN Epidemiology published a study concerning the epidemiology of fractures caused by falls down stairs in adults. Researchers found these kinds of falls to be especially dangerous for those over 65, with the risk increasing as age advances. In this age group, the most common kinds of injuries included:
- Fractures of the foot;
- Broken ankles;
- Shoulder blade injuries;
- Hip fractures.
The journal Pediatrics published a study examining stair-related injuries to young children treated in emergency rooms between 1999 and 2008. What they found was that an estimated 932,000 children under the age of 5 were treated in the emergency room for stair falls during this time. Of those injuries:
- 35 percent were soft tissue injuries;
- 76 percent suffered injuries to the head and neck;
- 3 percent had to be hospitalized;
- 25 percent of children under 1 were being carried at the time of a stair fall, and were three times more likely to be hospitalized for their injuries.
Researchers recommended builders take more care to improve stairway design and property owners use vigilance in stairway maintenance.Causes of Stairway Accidents
Most people know when climbing or descending stairways they must use an extra degree of caution. That means holding onto the handrail, looking ahead and paying attention to each step.
But even so, there may be dangerous conditions that aren’t immediately obvious.
One of the common hidden dangers on stairs is slippery surfaces. The chance of a wet fall is always a possibility when rainwater or mud is tracked in from outdoors. On certain surfaces, it might be tough to see. However, there is also a possibility on a stairway—particularly one that gets a lot of foot traffic— that the carpet or wood has become dangerously worn. Areas where the foot is most likely to land are the sections that tend to see the most wear-and-tear. This can cause the walking surface to become slippery, even if it’s not actually wet.
Keep in mind too that if the stairs are made of highly-polished wood or tile, they are more likely to be slip-prone than carpet, stone or painted wood.
Property owners may also face liability if the stairway structure presents a building code violation. Depending on the nature of the hazard, this can be true even if the property owner didn’t build the stairs.
For example, Florida Building Code Section 1009.3 specifies that stair riser heights can only range from 4 inches to 7 inches, with depths a minimum of 11 inches, and there must be dimensional uniformity, so walkers aren’t surprised by a sudden change in the level of the stairwell.
Section 1009.5.2 specifies that outdoor stairs and outdoor approaches to stairs must be designed so that water won’t accumulate on walking surfaces.
Section 1009.11 requires that all stairways have handrails of adequate strength and attachment on each side, except where there is a handrail in the middle or in some residential structures where only one handrail is required, or in outdoor decks and patios where there is only a single change in elevation.
Property owners need also consider the role inadequate lighting can play in these cases. Many areas with stairs lack sufficient natural light, and must have adequate artificial lighting so that users can see where they are stepping.
Finally, those responsible for stairway maintenance should ensure the area is free of garbage, debris or other material blocking safe ingress or egress on the stairway.
If you or a loved one has been victim of a slip-and-fall accident in Southwest Florida, contact Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. There are no fees or costs unless we win. Offices in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples and Port Charlotte.