Even in the best conditions, stairs can be inherently dangerous. But when stairs are improperly maintained, there is an even higher risk of an accident.
Studies show that an average of one million people are rushed to the emergency room due to stairway accidents every year. People of all ages suffer serious injuries after falling down the stairs, but the highest injury rates occur among younger children and elders.
Stairway accidents occur primarily due to improper maintenance of stairs. A fall down the stairs could result from a property owner’s failure to maintain the premises, constituting premises liability that may lead to a personal injury lawsuit.
Did you fall down the stairs at someone else’s property due to the owner’s negligence? If so, our personal injury attorneys at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC, can help you seek financial compensation by filing a personal injury claim against the at-fault party.
Call our Chicago premises liability lawyers at (888) 424-5757 or schedule a free consultation to explore your legal options. All private or sensitive information you provide will remain confidential under an attorney-client relationship.
Why Stairway Accidents Occur
After motor vehicle accidents, falling down the stairs remains the second leading cause of serious injuries in America. Commercial establishments, apartment buildings, and property owners must provide all tenants, visitors, and workers with stairways in a reasonably safe condition.
Any dangerous condition could cause many stairway accidents due to a lack of proper maintenance. These common causes include:
- Slippery Surfaces: Indoor stairs must be kept dry at all times. If the stairs are wet after cleaning, proper signage must be placed on the top and bottom of the stairs to warn people. Property owners must put anti-slip measures on outdoor stairs (at risk of becoming slippery when it rains), such as anti-slip floor finish or non-slip rubber adhesives.
- Worn Carpet: Old or worn carpet tends to have curling corners, serving as tripping scenarios and other hazards.
- Uneven or Unstable Steps: Improperly maintained stairs risk becoming wobbly or unstable over time. Stairs with uneven or unstable steps can easily lead to a stairway fall.
- Broken or Missing Steps: Any missing, loose, or broken steps compromise stairway safety and increase the potential risk of falling downstairs.
- Broken or Defective Railings/Handrails: Handrails are supposed to provide more stability to people using the stairs. A defective step creates a dangerous condition where a person (especially someone older or handicapped) may lose their footing and fall down the stairs.
- Debris: There should never be any foreign objects on stairs as they can become tripping hazards. Debris on stairways is especially dangerous for the blind, disabled, and elderly.
- Poor Lighting: Stairways should have proper lighting to ensure that anyone using the stairs can see the steps. Lack of adequate lighting may make a person lose their line of sight of the risers or fail to see hazards up ahead, increasing the risk of being injured falling down the stairs.
In other cases, lack of maintenance is not the problem–it’s the stairs themselves. Improper installation or design of stairs can lead to:
- Unproportioned Riser Height or Step Depth: According to the building code for residences, stair tread depths (steps) should be no less than 10 inches deep to avoid an accidental injury from tripping. According to national building codes, the maximum variation in tread depths should be less than ⅜ of an inch. Improperly proportioned stair treads create a dangerous condition that can make stair users lose the rhythm of their steps and fall.
- Poor Stairway Visibility: Poor visibility of risers and treads can cause a person to misread the stair edge, leading to hazardous foot placement and a stairway fall. This hazard is typically present in public buildings, such as restaurants and schools.
If you fall down the stair at a commercial establishment that does not follow the building code, you could sue the property owner, construction company, or manufacturer responsible for building, installing, or maintaining the defective stairs.
Serious Injuries Resulting from Stair Accidents
According to the National Safety Council (NSC) , falls are the third leading cause of non-fatal injuries in the US. Falling down stairs can lead to severe injuries, especially if the victim belongs to an at-risk group (young children and seniors).
People fall down stairs for various reasons. The following are common injuries associated with stairway falls:
- Fractures: Falling down the stairs from a significant height can lead to broken bones. Most fracture-related stairway injuries occur in the lower extremities, although the wrists and arms are also commonly injured.
- Spinal Cord Damage: Falling down stairs on your back after tumbling on steps can lead to spinal cord trauma, herniated discs, and other back injuries. In the worst cases, an injury to the spinal cord can lead to paralysis.
- Traumatic Brain Injuries: Stair-related accidents where the victim falls head-first could mean they suffer head injuries, ranging from a mild concussion to a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI).
- Organ Damage: Any stair-related injury to the torso could lead to organ damage or deep punctures.
- Broken Teeth: Some staircase accidents lead to broken, chipped, or dislodged teeth. These injuries often occur when the victim falls on their face or hits it against an object while falling down stairs.
- Neck Injuries: American Journal of Emergency Medicine reveals that more than 21% of stair-related injuries from falling down stairs ended up in neck trauma.
- Soft Tissue Injuries: These injuries are less severe than fractures or head trauma but can still be particularly detrimental. Common injuries to soft tissue include sprains, strains, and contusions and mostly occur when a person attempts to break their fall using their feet, hands, or knees.
- Deep Lacerations: Aside from blunt trauma, you may also suffer deep cuts on your body from hitting a sharp object while falling down the stairs.
In many scenarios, a fall down the stairs could require immediate medical attention at local emergency departments.
Most common injuries from falling down stairs could be life-altering, leading to permanent/temporary disabilities or even death.
Who Is Most at Risk of Severe Injury?
Among all age groups, falling down stairs is among the common causes of accidental injuries. However, some people are more susceptible to severe injuries than others.
These people include:
- Elderly: Older adults are more prone to fractures, TBIs, and other stair-related injuries due to their bodies’ diminished strength and durability. Elderly people are also more prone to falling because of vision problems, reduced balance, unsteady gait, and other factors related to aging.
- Young Children: Falls are a leading cause of non-fatal injury in children. Children are more at risk of serious injury from a stair fall.
Furthermore, people with specific circumstances may be more at risk of severe injuries after falling down the stairs.
These groups include:
- Pregnant Women: Due to their increased body weight, pregnant women are likely to hit the floor with more impact, endangering both themselves and their unborn children.
- Disabled: People with disabilities may be less able to break the fall with their hands, elbows, or knees. Furthermore, a person temporarily disabled due to a prior injury may experience their injury becoming even worse after a fall from the stairs.
- Obese Individuals: Obese people are more likely to injure themselves in falls and any other type of accident. The main reason for this is the excess weight on their bodies, making the trauma worse after impact.
What to Do After a Stairway Slip and Fall
If you or a loved one falls on the stairs, you must assess if you need medical attention.
You may need to call 911 if:
- You have severe bleeding that lasts longer than 15 minutes
- You lose consciousness
- You experience headaches, nausea, confusion, drowsiness, or vomiting
- You feel unusually warm or cold
- Your bones are displaced, broken, painful, or numb
- You have difficulty walking, speaking, or seeing
Fall prevention is crucial when navigating a staircase. The most common injuries from falling lead to life-altering problems that take months or years to heal completely, if possible.
Filing a Stair Accident Lawsuit
Were you the victim of a stairway accident that led to severe injuries? Was the accident the result of improper maintenance by the property owner? If so, you might be able to file a case against the negligent party.
Examples of Negligence Resulting in a Stairway Accident
It may be difficult to tell whether an accident resulted from someone else’s negligence or your own carelessness. To better determine if there are liable parties in staircase falls, here are examples of negligence leading to stairway falls:
- The apartment building owner did not install proper lighting in the stair landing, thereby increasing the risk of miscalculating the first step of the next staircase.
- The construction firm failed to follow the building code when building the staircase, leading to improper tread depth and height.
- The apartment building manager discovered warning signs (unstable steps, curling carpets, broken handrails) on the staircase but did not do anything about it.
- The sanitation worker mopped the stairway and failed to warn others about the wet stairs with proper signage.
Taking legal actions involving the most common types of falling down stairs can ensure the property owner or management are held liable for damages.
All property owners are expected to make a reasonable effort to ensure the safety of everyone that enters their property, including personal guests, patrons, and workers. In a stairway accident, a property owner may be held liable if:
- The property owner or an employee caused the hazardous element, resulting in your slip and fall accident.
- The property owner or an employee knew of the dangerous stairway but did nothing about it.
- The property owner or an employee should have known of the dangerous stairway because a “reasonable” caretaker would have discovered it and taken proper action.
Unfortunately, stair accidents may be more complicated than slip and fall accidents occurring on level surfaces. For example, a stair defect may not be visible even after the incident, and you may have to dig deeper to figure out what happened and what should have been done.
If you suspect the property owner failed to do their duty and caused your accident, contact a premises liability lawyer at our Chicago law firm for help. Call (888) 424-5757 for a free consultation.
Other Responsible Parties
Aside from property owners, potential parties may also include employees, tenants, and companies that designed and constructed the faulty stairs.
A person injured on someone else’s property may recover compensation for the following damages:
- Medical Bills: The costs of medical care after a stair accident may include emergency transportation, hospitalization, medication, and therapy. In severe cases where extensive medical treatment is needed, a victim may need surgery, lengthy physical therapy, and rehabilitation following a stairway slip, trip, and fall.
- Disability: An injured person may also hold the property owner liable for disability expenses and the non-economic losses associated with living with a disability.
- Lost Wages: If you miss work or lose your job due to your injury, you could also claim damages for lost income.
- Property Damage: You can claim damages for repairing or replacing your personal belongings lost or damaged in the stairway accident.
- Scarring or Disfigurement: You sustained a permanent scar from an injury so severe that it requires surgery.
Why You Need an Experienced Attorney
Receiving compensation for your accident can help you recover losses from lost income, property damage, and the out-of-pocket costs of your medical bills. However, it is often difficult to obtain a maximum settlement from the negligent party’s insurance company–or the defendant.
An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you fight for maximum compensation for your damages. The attorney working on your behalf will:
- Negotiate the settlement value
- Collect evidence
- Communicate with insurance companies on your behalf
- File your stairway slip and fall case in court
- Provide legal information to help you understand your case
- Find an expert to testify in court
Contact Our Chicago Law Firm to Resolve Your Stairway Fall Accident
Stairs can come with inherent dangers that need to be addressed. If a property owner or landowner fails to do that, it can cause severe injury to an innocent guest, tenant, or passerby.
If you were a victim of a Chicago, Illinois, stair accident resulting from the actions or inaction of another, talk to our experienced legal counsel at Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers, LLC.
We can prove liability so you can receive compensation for your losses.
Resources:  National Safety Council