If you slip and fall on a staircase, you may want to file a lawsuit against the property owner to claim back the cost of any medical bills and lost wages. If you take legal action, the defendant's attorney will probably try to show that the defendant wasn't negligent, but to counter this, your attorney will need to show that the stairway was defective in some way. If you've suffered a slip and fall accident on a stairway, consider the four following circumstances that could help you win your case.
To prove the property owner was liable, you may need to show that the surface of the defective stairway was dangerous in some way. In many cases, successful claimants prove that there was a slip hazard on the stairway. If the stairway is permanently slippery and the owner does nothing about it, you probably stand a good chance of winning your case.
Many factors can cause a slippery surface. For example, worn carpets can become slippery over time, but it's important to note that the extent of the problem can influence the case. Ironically, a very old, very worn carpet may not pose such a risk because the defendant's attorney may argue that anyone can clearly see the hazard, especially if there are warning signs.
Liquid spills often present a serious hazard. It's generally difficult to see oil or other liquids spilled on a staircase, and these spillages can easily result in a serious accident. However, this won't always count against the defendant. In any slip and fall case like this, you will also need to prove that the property owner should have known about the problem. If somebody else spills something, a court may not rule that the problem was the defendant's fault.
If the same problem occurs regularly, you may have a stronger case. For example, if there's a leak in the roof and rain and ice regularly build up on the floor, you can probably argue that the property owner should know and do something about the problem. As such, the exact nature of a liquid spill can influence your chances of success.
Broken or missing handrails
A handrail is an essential way to cut the risk of accidents on a stairway. A handrail can stop somebody falling, so if the device is missing or broken, you can often argue that the property owner was negligent.
Many state building codes mandate that property owners must install handrails. For example, in New York, multiple dwellings built after 1929 must have a handrail on both sides of a staircase more than three feet eight inches wide. A property owner's violation of a building code like this could improve your chances of success in a slip and fall lawsuit because he or she has broken the law.
Stairway design flaws
Building codes also set out rules about the design of staircases. For example, there are usually rules about stair heights or depths. Building surveyors refer to the height of each step as the unit rise. Similarly, the unit run is the width of the step from the back to the front edge. Building codes generally insist that developers stay within certain run and rise limits.
If you slip and fall on a staircase, the run and/or rise of the steps may contribute to the accident. Put simply, if it's difficult to safely walk up and down the steps due to the design, the staircase is defective. Following an accident, your attorney will normally arrange for a surveyor to measure the stairway and check if it is within building code rules. If it's not, your lawsuit has a stronger chance of success.
If you injure yourself following an accident on a stairway, you will normally need to show how the staircase was defective. Talk to an experienced slip and fall attorney from a firm like Putnam Lieb for more information and advice.