Have you ever thought that there are special requirements for building stairs or stairwells? Almost everyone has slipped on stairs and even fell, some of us have got serious injuries and some of us, fortunately, don’t break any bones. Is it possible to get compensation for being damaged in a stairway accident or what has happened is only your fault?
Who is Responsible for a Stairway Accident?
As mentioned already, there are special requirements for stairs under California Residential Code. These requirements concern the width and height of such stairs, tread depth, slip resistance, etc. This means that if such requirements have not been met by the constructor or the stairs haven’t been maintained clean and in good repair by the house owner, such circumstances can lead to the latter’s responsibility for the occurred accidents. Thus, the stair accident claims shall be based on negligence or product liability of:
- the construction companies;
- property owners;
- designers or architects.
Let’s examine the grounds for the liability of each of them.
1. Manufacturers/Sellers/Constructors Liability for Stairway Injury
If the requirements to the stair haven’t been maintained and the injury has been caused as the result of defective stair surfaces, defective rails, the manufacturer/seller shall be liable for such defects and the injuries caused in their result under product liability laws. In other words, under such laws, the liability arises for anyone, who:
- constructs stairways;
- manufactures stairways;
- designs stairways,
- sells or distributes stairways
What are the Elements That the Plaintiff Must Prove for Liability to Attach?
In order for liability to attach on a stairway manufacture, designer, seller, distributor or contractor the Plaintiff must prove the following elements:
- the defendant was the manufacturer/designer/seller of stairways;
- the defendant owed a duty of care to the injured party which was breached;
- the stairway was defective after leaving the possession of the stairway manufacture, designer or seller; and
- the accident occurred due to the defects of stairs and not the negligence of the plaintiff
Stairway Accidents Caused by a Constructor’s Employee
Often times, it can be more problematic to recover damages from an employee of a company, rather than the construction company itself. However, the corresponding legal regulations provide the possibility to recover damages from the employers for negligence of the employees, because the employer shall be vicariously liable for such actions. It is just essential to prove that the negligent employee while constructing the stairs, was acting within the scope of his employment.
2. Liability of the Property Owner of the Defective Stairway
Can a property owner be liable for the damages to the victim? Yes, a property owner has a duty of care for keeping the property in a safe condition. Duty of care is shown by either fixing the issues with the stairway or at least warning the persons about the problems. Thus, if such actions have not been conducted and as a result, an accident took place, the property owner will be held liable for compensating the damages. Generally, such compensation shall be covered by the owner’s insurance policy, however, if the policy is not enough, the owner shall pay “from his own pockets”. The following factors are often taken into account for determining the owner’s liability:
- the likelihood and seriousness of injury because of the defects of the stairs;
- the degree of control over the property and the burden to take measures to avoid the risks of the accident;
- direct cause of injury by the owner’s negligence
What Remedies are Available for Stairway Accidents?
A injured party in a stairway slip and fall accident has a number of remedies. An injured party is entitled to compensation for the following expenses:
- out of pocket expenses;
- compensation for medical and ambulance expenses;
- compensation for temporary or permanent loss of earning capacity;
- compensation for funeral or burial expenses as well as loss of financial support in case of a wrongful death lawsuit filed by a surviving family member for a dead victim of stairway accidents.
Of course, often times, the insurance company will try to blame you for the occurred accident for at least sharing the expenses and not compensating you the whole amount. As such, collecting valuable evidence such as photos or videos of the stairway, details of witnesses of your stairway accident, your medical record of treatment after the accident is very essential. Getting professional legal assistance will help you to efficiently plan your steps for getting the compensation.
Los Angeles Premises Liability Attorney
If you or your loved one had a stairway accident, contact our Los Angeles premises liability attorneys today at (310) 943-1171 for a free constellation and case review.