Slipping and falling on stairs is one of the most common forms of personal injury incidents in the nation. Property owners are generally liable for accidents that occur on their premises, including those that happen on indoor and outdoor stairs.
Stairs, by their very nature, present unique navigational challenges and accident prevention concerns. As such, it warrants taking a closer look at the property liability rules governing stairs and the negligence determination process when accidents do happen.
Slip and Fall Liability
For a property owner to be legally liable for your injuries, the owner or one of his or her employees:
- Must have caused the conditions that resulted in your injuries.
- Must have known the stairs were hazardous but did not do anything to correct or warn you about the issue.
- Should have known about or found and corrected the issue that caused your injuries before any incidents occurred.
Some accidents are unavoidable. The property owner may not have been able to do anything to prevent your injuries. When there is something that could have been done or done differently however, the owner may be responsible for your injuries and therefore liable for damages.
It’s important to note that in most states, you can be partially at fault and still file a claim against the property owner for his or her part in your injuries. In other words, even if you were somewhat careless or reckless in your own actions, you may still have a personal injury claim.
Stair Slip and Fall Accident Considerations
There are many situations in which slip and fall accidents can happen on stairs. The circumstances determine who is responsible as well as how negligence can be argued in your case.
- Outdoor Stairs – ice, rainwater, and snow may collect on outdoor stairs. These normal weather conditions are to be expected, but it is the property owner responsibility to ensure stairs are regularly cleared and that dangerous conditions are consistently and effectively countered.
Stairs should be built in such a way that they discourage the buildup of ice or the pooling of water. They should also be covered by non-slip runners and/or treated with salt to melt ice. A failure to do any of these things can make the property owner liable for slip and fall accidents.
- Slippery Stairs – indoor stairs may be slippery due to a spill of some kind or because of the surface of the stairs themselves. What the stairs are created from or covered with influences how slippery the surface can be. If the stairs are covered with worn carpet or made of polished stone, the property owner may be liable for failing to maintain the stairs or for choosing the wrong type of material.
- Stairs with Building Code Violations – specific rules govern the way stairs must be constructed. These rules are intended to promote safety. When a property owner fails to follow building code standards in their construction processes, they can be held liable for any injuries that occur. Common code violations include:
- Stairs – uneven stairs and stairs that are not the proper height or depth may be in violation of local building codes.
- Handrails – there may be no handrails or the rails may be old, in disrepair, constructed from the wrong materials, or placed at an inappropriate height according to local building codes.
A code violation can cause injuries in some cases, while in others they may contribute to how severe injuries are. Even when the violation was not the reason for your accident, it can influence the outcome of your claim, including the amount of any settlement you receive.