Any accident involving an elevator or escalator typically falls under the purview of premises liability, but in some situations, a case may extend to product liability claims against a manufacturer of defective equipment, or the parties responsible for the maintenance of the elevator or escalator.
Due to the nature of these fixtures, elevators and escalators are capable of severely injuring people in some situations. There are far more elevators than escalators in the United States, but escalator accidents are more common and occur at almost 15 times the rate of elevator accidents. Escalator accidents are of particular concern because they often involve small children.
Types of Injuries that May Occur
Any injury on an escalator may happen on the escalator itself, or the victim may fall over the handrail. Escalator injuries are fatal in roughly one-third of cases, and this has raised more awareness among manufacturers and maintenance technicians, as well as the properties that have them. The most common types of escalator injuries include fractured bones, brain and spinal injuries, lacerations from falling into glass or breakable fixtures, or entrapment – when the moving parts of the escalator catch a victim’s clothing or hair.
Elevator accidents, though less frequent, are extremely dangerous, and of all the fatalities that result from escalator and elevator accidents, 90% of them involve elevators. Most of the injuries and fatalities that result from elevators involve falls down the elevator shaft, entrapment between moving parts, or collapsing elevator boxes or counterweights. Half of elevator deaths involve technicians who are installing, maintaining, repairing, or working on the elevators.
Who is Responsible?
In some cases, unsafe actions made by the victim may be the cause of their injuries, such as improperly using the elevator or escalator or attempting to ride down the rails of an escalator. While the number of accidents has spurred manufacturers to create safer designs, they may not be held accountable for the unsafe actions of the victim.
Elevators and escalators require regular maintenance and upkeep, and that service must be done efficiently and thoroughly while adhering to all safety standards. A technician who improperly installs or repairs an escalator or elevator may be negligent and liable for any resulting injuries. If a manufacturer is found to have used an unsafe or poorly constructed design, their lax judgment may be the cause of an accident, and the victim may be able to file a product liability claim against the manufacturer.
What is Product Liability?
Manufacturers are required to use sound product designs, manufacture products with consistent materials and practices, thoroughly warn consumers of any potential product hazards, and accurately represent the product’s intended uses and limitations. If they fail in any of these aspects, their products may injure someone. The victim would then be able to sue that manufacturer for releasing an unsafe product to the market.
This extends to elevators and escalators. The manufacturers of these devices must consider public safety in the design process and ensure that all of the parts of the escalator or elevator are properly, safely, and consistently machined to ensure proper performance. The individuals responsible for installing and repairing these devices are also expected to perform their duties with reasonable care, and follow all required safety standards so their work and the result of that work pose no threat to public safety.
Elevator and escalator accidents can be tricky to navigate for the victims. The suit may extend to the property owner if he or she was responsible for the care and maintenance of the device, the manufacturer for producing an unsafe product, or the technicians responsible for ensuring the device operates correctly and safely.
The legal team of Douglas, Haun & Heidemann has been serving Missouri since 1912, and our extensive experience in all types of personal injury and product liability matters allows us to provide comprehensive representation for any elevator or escalator injury. Reach out to our team of legal experts if you want to start reviewing your case in Springfield, Mo., today.