A slip and fall on stairs can cause serious injuries and even death. It’s bad enough when you fall on hard flat ground, but a fall down a flight of stairs can cause serious damage. If you’ve experienced a serious slip and fall on stairs and if that fall occurred on another person’s property or at a business, you may be entitled to compensation. Our premises liability attorneys are here to help you make sure your rights are protected and to guide you through your premises liability claim.
The key to a viable claim for premises liability is to prove that someone or some company was negligent, and that the actions of the careless person or company caused you to fall and suffer injuries. Often times, the specific act of negligence that causes people to slip and fall on stairs and get hurt is the negligent maintenance of the stairs, which could be a substance on the stairs or a defect. A defect on stairs could arise because of a defective design or improper maintenance of the stairs, as well as many other reasons. Below are 7 of the more common reasons people slip and fall on stairs.
One: A Missing Tread or Strip
One very common defect is a missing anti-slip tread or strip. The tread may be something like a rubber strip along the edge of the stair. The strip may be something that looks like sandpaper glued onto the edge of the stair. These non-slip components are often necessary to make the stairs safe. Thus, if the stair is missing the strip or tread, it can be a serious hazard, especially if the stair is slick, like a polished concrete stair or a tile stair.
People slip on a stair missing a tread or strip all the time. When the tread or strip has been missing for a significant amount of time, it’s a good argument that the defendant person or company acted negligently. It’s even worse if people reported the missing strip or if someone else got hurt before you slipped and fell down the stairs. If others fell because of a missing tread and if someone reported that hazard before you fell, your premises liability claim is even stronger.
Two: A Loose Board
People slip and fall on stairs not only because of the improperly maintained strips and treads, but they also slip and fall on stairs because of the improper maintenance of the stair components. This is especially common for wooden stairs or stairs with panels that can become shifted or uneven. Wooden stairs will warp or break down because of the weather, termites, or even regular wear and tear. Over time and after exposure of water, heat, and sunlight, the edges of the wooden boards often become uneven and shift around. Additionally, sometimes nails will loosen and stick up out of the board over time. If a landowner fails to make necessary repairs to the wooden stair and you fall as a result, the landowner may be liable for your injuries.
A shifted or uneven board is easy to trip on. Similarly, a nail sticking up out of a board can catch a shoe, heel, or even a shoelace and make even the most sure-footed among us fall. Imagine how much more dangerous these types of conditions are to the elderly or to anyone who doesn’t have great balance. When a business leaves a stair in a dangerous condition, the victim and the victim’s family should not be stuck with the financial burden of that injury. That wouldn’t be fair, and that’s why most businesses carry liability insurance.
Three: Loose Carpeting
Carpeting is commonly used on both indoor and outdoor stair treads. Carpeting on stairs can pad a step and reduce the impact on a person’s knees. It can also cut down on noise. Additionally, carpeted stairs are typically less slippery than stairs made of a hard material, like wood or concrete. However, carpet can pose a serious trip hazard if it is not properly maintained or if the carpet is not properly installed.
Over time, carpet comes loose at the edges, and this causes the carpet to bunch up at the edges or flip up. This often results in a trip hazard that is a few inches high and in perfect position to catch someone’s foot and cause them to fall down the stairs. These types of carpet hazards on stairs can be prevented with an occasional walk through or inspection to make sure the stairs are safe. When a company neglects the stairs and does not have people regularly inspect the stairs, the stairs can become unsafe over time. As a result, unsuspecting visitors can fall on the unsafe stairs and suffer serious injuries.
Four: Uneven Stairs
Typically, when we’re walking down a set of stairs, we expect each step to be consistent. We get into a rhythm walking up or down stairs, and we expect stairs to be the same size, the same height, and the same distance from each other all the way up or down. Thus, inconsistencies in a staircase, even small inconsistencies, can cause a person to misstep and slip and fall on stairs. Therefore, a staircase missing a step or a staircase with a step that is shorter, longer, or wider than the others can pose a serious threat.
Whereas carpet issues or issues with a tread occur after the stair has been exposed to use or weather, uneven stairs are often defective from the moment they are built or repaired. These are the types of conditions that should never have existed. In other words, nobody should have ever let people walk around on uneven stairs. They should have fixed the condition first. A great example is where a restaurant may have a small flight of steps inside, and one of those steps is different than the others. Add in some poor lighting, and you have a condition that is likely to make most people fall. These types of conditions are inexcusable and the result of a company acting careless.
Five: Broken or Missing Handrails
A loose or missing handrail is a common cause of slip and falls down stairs. When we start to fall, our instinct is to reach out and try to grab something to catch our balance. Thus, a staircase should have a rail, especially at a business. Moreover, the rail should be able to withstand the weight of a person. According to the Florida Building Code, handrails should be able to withstand 200 pounds applied in any direction at any point along the top of the rail. The Code also lists locations where there must be handrails. This Code is there to protect all of us.
Improperly maintained rails can sometimes be even more dangerous than no rail at all. For example, if you’re falling and reach to grab a rail that can’t support your weight, it can make your fall even worse than if you simply reached to the ground to catch yourself. Your dependence on the handrail makes it less likely you can reach out and catch yourself and fall properly. If a property owner fails to maintain or repair a staircase where a handrail is loose, people can suffer serious injuries as a result.
Six: Object or Obstruction
An object on the stairs causes a serious trip hazard. Whether it’s a bigger object, like a cord, a toolbox, or a cooler, or a smaller object, like a water bottle, a marble, or pocket change, a slip on one stair often results in serious fall down the whole flight of stairs. Occasionally, we can catch ourselves on the handrail if we’re lucky. However, more often than not, if we slip on an object or trip over an object on a staircase, we’re going to fall down at least a few stairs. Therefore, objects on stairs cause lots of slip and falls every year.
When you slip and fall on an object, it could be negligence. For example, if the object that caused you to fall had been there for an unreasonable amount of time, you would have a strong argument for negligence. How do you prove that the object was there for an unreasonable period of time? Let’s say the object was a banana peel. If the peel was fresh and yellow when you slipped on it, the peel may have only been there for a short period of time. In this case, there may be less negligence involved because the banana peel hadn’t been there very long, and nobody had a chance to correct the problem. However, if the banana peel was brown and trampled, that would suggest that the peel had been there for a while, and thus it would suggest more negligence because someone should have seen the banana before it became beat up and trampled by all the people who stepped on it. Similarly, you may be able to prove the condition had existed an unreasonable amount of time if others had fallen because of the same condition or if someone else had reported the condition to the business owner or employees. If you can show that you slipped and fell because of negligence, you have a strong premises liability claim.
Seventh: Inadequate Lighting
Staircases are dangerous enough when there is plenty of lighting, and they can be extra dangerous if there is no lighting or poor lighting. If a staircase lacks the proper lighting, we have to guess where the next step is, and it can be difficult to find that next step or to find the handrail if you’re falling. For that reason, a poorly lit staircase can be very dangerous.
When we’re walking in the dark at a business, we expect stairs to be in a safe condition. When they’re not, it’s unanticipated, and we can fall and get hurt as a result. For this reason, businesses should maintain their stairs extra carefully in poorly lit or dark areas. Otherwise, its foreseeable, even certain, that someone will fall on the poorly lit stairs and suffer injuries. If this happened to you, then you and your family shouldn’t bear the financial responsibility for your medical bills, lost wages, or any other costs associated with your fall. The burden should fall on the careless company, and this is why companies typically carry some sort of premises liability insurance.
Set up Your FREE Consultation with a Premises Liability Attorney
If you have fallen down stairs for any of the reasons listed above, you may have a viable premises liability claim, and you should contact a premises liability attorney right away to make sure your rights are protected. Once you schedule your free legal consultation, you will get to talk with one of our premises liability attorneys. At our firm, attorneys do the consultations, not an assistant or customer service representative.