Accidents Due to Defective or Hazardous Conditions on Stairs
It is estimated that the average American climbs anywhere from 500,000 to 3.5 million stairs throughout their life. Stairs are found in all types of buildings that we frequent daily such as homes, restaurants, stores, etc. Most people do not know that stairs—a necessary part of our everyday lives—are the second most common cause of an accidental injury. The only other type of accident that is more prevalent are automobile accidents. It has been reported that up to 12,000 people die from stairway related incidents every year. Even if initial injuries appear to be relatively minor, serious complications can arise that can be severe and even life threatening.
These are the most common types of negligence seen in stairway-related accidents:
- Defects in the stairway, the stairs themselves, or the stairwell
- Dangerous stair risers, including improper stair height or depth, or uneven stair height or depth
- Damaged steps, including rotting wood
- Improper or inferior lighting
- Defective handrails or railings, or lack of handrails
- Slippery steps
- Objects left on stairs
All New Hampshire property owners must ensure that stairs inside and outside buildings they own are not only built to code, but are maintained properly to prevent unnecessary falls. Even if stairs were constructed prior to the modern building codes, a property owner must, nevertheless, bring non-compliant stairs up to code. So, for example, if a stairway lacks proper handrails or has stairs with different heights, those code violations must be corrected by a property owner.
Proper maintenance of stairs to prevent falls would include, among other things, fixing loose handrails and replacing damaged or rotten treads. The property owner must also be reasonably diligent in ensuring that ice and other slippery substances are removed from stairs and prevent slippery conditions from occurring in the first place (for example, by fixing a leaky gutter that allows water to drip on stairs where it will freeze).Case Example: Serious Injuries Resulting From a Fall on Defective Stairs
Our client, Jeff, fell down a stairwell in a co-worker’s apartment. He suffered a number of serious injuries, including a fractured vertebrae in his lower back that required surgery. We met with Jeff in the hospital and, after agreeing to take his case, we went to the apartment house and took pictures of the loose stair tread that caused Jeff to lose his balance and fall. We also took a video that showed just how lose the tread was. It is fortunate that Jeff called us soon after the accident because we were able to get pictures and video before the apartment owner came in replaced the stair tread.
The apartment owner claimed that he had no prior knowledge of the loose tread and frequently inspected the property. On that basis, his insurance company denied Jeff’s claim. During the course of our investigation, we spoke with other tenants in the apartment who provided statements that the stair tread had been loose for months and that, despite their complaints, the property owner hadn’t bothered to fix it. (Jeff was not aware of the loose tread because he had never been to his co-worker’s apartment before the day of the accident.) We also learned from the other tenants we spoke to that the apartment owner was an “absentee landlord,” spending most of the year at a home in Florida, very rarely visiting the apartment house. Under New Hampshire law, a property owner does not escape liability for injuries caused by a dangerous property condition that he/she didn’t know about if the condition was something that, through reasonably diligent inspection of the property, would have been apparent. Because we were able to establish that the apartment owner never bothered to inspect his property and that he ignored his tenant’s complaints, we were able to convince the insurance company that it should settle Jeff’s case and compensate him for his medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost income, and permanent limitations in his ability to do certain day-to-day activities and engage in the pastimes he enjoyed.Peter Thompson & Associates: Experts in New Hampshire Premises Liability Law and Injuries Caused by Defective/Hazardous Stairs
If you or a loved one has been seriously injured due to a fall on defective stairs or a hazardous condition on stairs, contact Peter Thompson & Associates today. We will immediately begin our investigation and contact the property owner’s insurance company to ensure that your rights and interests are protected and that you receive the compensation you need and deserve. We have offices throughout New Hampshire and will come to your home or the hospital if you have difficulty getting around or are unable to come to us. To speak with one of our attorneys, call 800.804.2004 or fill out the online contact form.