Stairwell injuries can occur virtually anywhere stairs exist: Office buildings, schools, department stores, restaurants and bars, hospitals, parking garages and more. Falls are the second leading cause of death in the U.S. (No. 1 for the over-65 set), and almost half of those occurred on stairways. According to the National Safety Council, more than 1 million people are injured every year in stairway falls. Almost 12,000 people are injured in stairway accident deaths every year.
A fall on a flat surface can be dangerous, of course, but falling on stairs can be deadly.
Fort Lauderdale stairwell injury lawyers at The Ansara Law Firm know when stairs are defective or unsafe, it is the responsibility of the property owner or controller to maintain and repair them. Many serious falls that result in injury or death are caused by negligence of the property owner. Some examples include:
- Construction defects in the stairs, stairwell or stairway.
- Poorly maintained stairs.
- Inferior or improper lighting.
- Unsecured runners.
- Dangerous stair risers/ uneven steps.
- Faulty or damaged steps.
- State or local building code violations.
- Slippery substance on stairs.
- Defective handrails.
Some of the possible injuries our injury lawyers have seen as a result of a stairway fall include:
- Broken bones.
- Internal bleeding.
- Severe bruising.
- Traumatic brain injuries.
- Neck injuries.
- Spinal cord injuries.
Standards for construction and maintenance of Florida stairs are outlined by a series of statutes, including the Americans with Disability Act and Florida Building Code 1009. The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) also has guidelines for stairways on construction sites and those that are under construction.
These exact guidelines will vary depending on the purpose of the stairs and the intended users. The ADA sets standards for stairways that include criteria for treads and risers, nosings, handrails and requirements during wet conditions.
Evidence that a stairway failed to comply with these standards could be used to prove negligence per se, which means it is negligence proven because of a violation of a public duty under a law that outlines a certain failure of care.
There could also be local building codes that set certain requirements.
In cases that do not involve negligence per se, your attorney will need to prove general negligence, which requires a showing that:
- Defendant owed plaintiff a duty of care;
- Defendant breached that duty of care;
- That breach of care injured plaintiff;
- Plaintiff’s injuries are compensable.
Often when a person files a claim for stairwell injury, the property owner or insurer is quick to blame the victim’s own carelessness. They may also claim the condition was so obvious, victim should have seen it and steered clear. While it’s true that people have a responsibility – no matter where they are – to use reasonable care to watch out for their own well-being, it is not grounds for a complaint to be dismissed outright. That’s because Florida follows a pure comparative negligence model when it comes to contributory negligence.Contributory Negligence in Stairwell Injuries
F.S. 768.81 is the state’s comparative negligence statute. It holds that the contributory fault of a claimant will proportionately diminish the amount awarded as economic and non-economic damages for injury – but it will not bar recovery.
What this means is that even if you do share some portion of fault – even if you are mostly at-fault – you can still recover damages for your injuries.
So let’s say you are 60 percent to blame for your stairway fall and the jury determines you incurred $50,000 in damages. You can still collect $20,000 in damages.
Of course, one of the goals of your South Florida injury attorney is going to be to prove to the jury that you share as little of the blame as possible. The point, though, is that this factor alone should not hinder you from seeking legal advice after your fall.Duty of Care Owed to Plaintiff
Just because you slipped and fell on a stairway does not necessarily mean you can recover damages. First, we must determine what level of care the property owner owed to you. This will depend on your reason for being on the site.
Florida law designates three levels of duty, based on the injured person’s designation.
Invitees – These are persons who are on site either as a member of the public or for the commercial benefit of the property owner. They are owed the highest duty of care.
Licensees – These are social guests who are invited onto the site by the property owner/ controller. They are still owed a high duty of care, though property owners don’t have to regularly inspect the site for hazards, as they do for invitees.
Trespassers – These individuals are not lawfully on site and therefore are only protected against intentional “traps” set by the property owner. The exception is children lured to the site by an “attractive nuisance.”
If we take your stairway injury lawsuit, it means we believe your case can succeed. Call us today for your free consultation.
Call the injury attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm at (877) 277-3780 or locally in Broward at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties.