Though elevator injuries might seem like something out of a comedy, the truth is that they're very real and can be extremely costly.
Most injuries caused by elevators have to do with poor elevator maintenance, which is either the responsibility of the building owners or a maintenance company. If you have been injured in any kind of elevator accident, it's important that you fully understand your legal right to compensation.
Common Elevator Injury Causes:
- Mis-Leveling Injuries: This is the most common kind of injury involving elevators. The injury usually involves the victim tripping or falling when entering or exiting the elevator because it's not aligned properly. In mis-leveling cases, you'll need to prove that the defendant (the other side) was aware that the elevator was not leveled properly and ignored fixing the problem.
- Door Strike Injuries: We have all been in an elevator when the doors promptly start to close, but if you're caught in the middle the doors usually open back up. Door strike injuries occur when the electric sensors don't respond as they should and someone gets trapped between them.This is a maintenance responsibility that the building owner or maintenance company should be aware of from regular maintenance checks.
- Injuries from Abrupt Stops: These injuries are some of the most serious, as a high speed elevator malfunction is usually involved. Abrupt stops usually result from governor malfunction, motor control faults, overloads or fuses tripping while the elevator is in motion. There is seldom a viable defense against these injuries, and they are usually a result of not maintaining the elevator properly.
- Evacuation Injuries: Evacuation injuries occur when an elevator is stalled and someone sustains an injury from being improperly evacuated. The only way to effectively prevent these injuries from occurring is to instruct safety personnel on the proper ways to evacuate passengers from the elevator.
Additional causes include:
- Passengers dragged into the elevator shaft
- Electrical shocks or electrocution
- Falls or sudden drops
- Exposed elevator shafts
- Doors suddenly opening while the elevator is in motion
- Doors jamming
- Becoming trapped between the elevator car and side wall
- Asphyxiation from being trapped
Elevators, the Law and Who's Responsible
Whoever owns a building with elevators is responsible for maintaining the elevators. This should be done by at least three separate sets of evaluations.
Here in Texas, we have a statutory requirement that each elevator be checked once per year by a licensed elevator inspector. This inspection is meant to look at the big picture, not small and technical details. If the building owner skips this requirement, they can be at-fault if someone gets hurt on their elevator.
The building owner is also responsible for maintenance inspections on a regular basis. How often inspections should occur depends on the age of the building and the service contracts the building owner signed. When elevator injuries happen, owners are quick to point fingers at the maintenance crew, but that's not the end of that.
Reliable Maintenance Company Checks
The owner of the building with an elevator also has a duty to hire a trusted maintenance company. If they have reason to believe the company isn't doing a thorough job, the blame for an accident can be partially on the owner, too.
Proving Fault in Elevator Injury Cases
In order to make a successful claim against the hotel, office building, maintenance company or similar, you'll need to prove that the elevator caused your injuries and also that the at-fault party's negligence caused the elevator to malfunction.
Unlike other personal injury claims like car accidents where one party is clearly at-fault, in elevator injury cases it's not easy to prove negligence. For instance, if you tripped and tore your hamstring on an elevator misalignment, you'll need to a) take pictures of the uneven floor to prove it existed, b) provide documents of your medical bills and a doctor's note saying your injuries were caused by the floor and c) prove the elevator management or building knew about the misalignment and did nothing to fix it.
Do You Need a Lawyer?
Not every personal injury case requires an attorney. If your injuries are minor and you didn't have to see a doctor, it's unlikely that hiring a lawyer is right for you. However, if you sustained big injuries and have mounting medical bills as a result, the stress and pressure is something a lawyer can help take off your shoulders.
I've written a helpful article that can help you figure out if your case needs a lawyer, which you can find here.
If you have been involved in an elevator accident and have questions about your case, please fill out The Anderson Law Firm's contact form for a free consultation. You can also call a lawyer in Fort Worth at 817-294-1900 or in Dallas at 214-327-8000.
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