All property owners are liable for slips and
falls that occur on their interior or exterior stairs, just as they are with
any other types of slip and fall accidents that occur on their premises.
However, there are some additional elements associated with staircase accidents that you must consider before moving ahead with an injury claim.
For a property owner to be legally responsible for injuries you suffered from slipping or falling, at least one of the following must be true:
- •The property owner caused the worn spot, tear, spill or other dangerous surface or item to be underfoot.
- •The owner of the property or an employee of a public business knew the surface was dangerous, but did not address it in a timely manner.
- •The owner of the property or an employee of the business should have known about the dangerous surface because a “reasonable” person in the same circumstances would have discovered that hazard and removed or repaired it.
Unique elements to stair injuries
In addition to the above, there are several other items to consider related to staircase accident injury claims. Perhaps the most pressing is building codes. All states and counties have building codes that property owners and builders must follow, including requirements for stairs. Below are some specific regulations you must consider:
- •Handrails: Most building codes require handrails for certain kinds of stairs. Therefore, if you fall on stairs that are required to have handrails but don’t, and the lack of a handrail clearly played a role in your fall, the owner may be liable for your injuries. There are specific height and width requirements for these handrails, along with guidelines for installation.
- •Improper height or depth: The vertical and horizontal portions of every stair are called the “rise” and “run.” Building codes mandate minimum and maximum rises and runs for all stairs. If the stairs violate the code, the stairs may be considered defective and the building owner could be liable for accidents that occur if the defect caused your injuries.
- •Uneven rise or run: Building codes also regulate the maximum amount of variance each step has from one to the other. Too much variance can confuse our muscle memory, causing our legs to stop in the wrong place to the point where we lose our balance and fall. Stairs with too much variance are considered defective.