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Elevator and Escalator Accident FAQs

Elevator and Escalator Accident FAQs

Using elevators and escalators is a fact of life for anyone who lives and works in the New York City area. We count on these modern conveniences almost without thought. But like any mechanical device, an elevator or escalator can malfunction and injure its users.

People injured in elevator or escalator accidents may have reason to seek monetary damages from the property owner, the elevator or escalator manufacturer, maintenance contractor or other parties.

The premises liability lawyers of Cohen & Jaffe LLP can help after an elevator or escalator accident on Long Island or in New York City. Review the materials below for answers to frequently asked questions. For information about your specific situation, contact us now for a free consultation.

Elevator and Escalator Accident FAQs

What legal options do I have if I get hurt on an elevator or escalator that malfunctions?

The owner of the building where you were hurt as well as the company that maintains the elevator or escalator you were on when you had your accident may be responsible for your injuries and other losses. You may be able to hold them liable through a personal injury claim under premises liability law.

It may be that the escalator or elevator was faulty from the start, either in its design or the way it was assembled and installed. You may be able to hold the manufacturer accountable in such a case through a product liability claim.

Under New York law, building owners have a legal duty to ensure their premises are reasonably safe for visitors or to warn of existing hazards. This includes maintaining equipment such as elevators and escalators on a routine basis or in a timely manner if an unexpected failure occurs. If there is a problem that makes an elevator or escalator unsafe, the property owner should shut it down and post a warning or “out of order” sign.

Usually an elevator or escalator is maintained by an outside company rather than building maintenance personnel. Whether such a company has liability for the failure of an elevator or escalator will depend on the relationship between the company and the building’s operations. If the contractor is exclusively responsible for maintenance and repair of the elevator or escalator, it can probably be held responsible for an operational failure. But, if the contractor can show that a building crew or another company worked on the device in question, the contractor will likely argue that it is not responsible for the malfunction.

Through a personal injury lawsuit, you could obtain damages (compensation) for medical expenses connected to your accident, lost income due to your injuries and other monetary losses, as well as for your pain and suffering. But, you will need an experienced premises liability lawyer to investigate your accident to determine potential liabilities and pursue a lawsuit on your behalf.

How can I be hurt on an elevator?

People are frequently hurt in elevators when a malfunction causes the elevator or parts of the elevator mechanism to move, stop or fall unexpectedly or abruptly. An elevator is likely to malfunction because of incomplete maintenance or repairs, or because of inspections by unqualified or negligent personnel.

One organization, Consumer Watch, says among the defects or malfunctions that can occur on an elevator are:

  • Unbalanced leveling and the failure of the elevator to line up with the floor, which can lead to tripping and falling.
  • Pulley system malfunction, or a mechanical breakdown or defect causing an elevator to drop rapidly within the shaft.
  • Open shaft, or the risk of fall due to faulty doors or other failures to protect passengers from entering an open shaft.
  • Elevator control malfunction due to faulty wiring, or a risk of electrocution.
  • Entrapment due to wiring malfunction, or the heat from a fire or water from emergency sprinklers or hose.

Another common situation is elevator door malfunctions, in which doors close on a person and cause a crushing injury to a limb or head, or close and trap clothing or a limb and cause a tearing injury as the elevator moves.

Elevators should not malfunction in a manner that causes injury. If you have been injured on an elevator in New York because of a problem with how the elevator operated, you should discuss our injury with one of our premises liability lawyers. You may be able to obtain compensation for losses associated with your injury.

How can I be hurt on an escalator?

Injuries sustained on an escalator usually occur in falls or from entanglement in some portion of the escalator. Escalator accidents are often made worse because the escalator is steep, which exacerbates a fall, and because it continues to move and the stair treads are hard surfaces.

Consumer Watch organization lists typical escalator malfunctions as:

  • Slip-and-fall accidents, particularly with elderly passengers.
  • Finger entrapment, particularly with children, if the handrail entry at the balustrade has an opening too large.
  • Comb plate entrapment. The comb plate is the piece between the stationary floor plate and moving steps.
  • Between-step entrapment.
  • Personal effects such as hair, clothing, shoes or shoelaces becoming lodged in the escalator.
  • Abruptly stopping, starting or shifting.

Entrapment by components of an escalator can cause injuries that range from cuts and bruises to dislocations, fractures and amputations. A slip-and-fall accident on an escalator can result in a traumatic brain injury (TBI) if the fall victim hits his or her head, broken bones – such as a hip fracture in an elderly fall victim ­­– or other injuries, such as cuts, bruises, sprains and strains.

Escalators should be maintained so that they do not malfunction in a manner that causes injury. If you have been injured on an escalator in New York, you may be able to obtain compensation for medical expenses and other losses associated with your injury. If you were hurt because of a problem with how the escalator operated, you should discuss your injury with one of our premises liability attorneys.

I was badly injured in a fall on an escalator, but I had just had a couple of glasses of wine with dinner. My friend says I cannot file a claim because I was drinking. Can you help me?

It is quite likely that lawyers for the defendants in a claim over your escalator accident would argue that your alcohol consumption caused or contributed to your injury. In New York, personal injury law considers “comparative” negligence, which means your role in the accident will be considered in determining how much compensation you are due. But you should talk to an attorney before giving up on a claim.

There are several questions that would have to be answered in regard to a claim for your escalator accident.

First, did an identifiable malfunction or defect in the escalator’s operation cause your accident? A sudden stoppage might be documented by security camera video, or an unsafe gap between the moving steps and the escalator sides would be measurable if we could get to it before repairs were made.

Secondly, the defense would have to argue the effect of your alcohol consumption. Drinks you bought with a restaurant meal could be documented through receipts, but without a blood-alcohol content (BAC) test of some sort, there would be no reliable measure of intoxication. The fact that you ate a meal would weigh in your favor, since food slows alcohol absorption. The time between when you finished your drinks and when you were on the escalator would also be a factor in arguing your potential intoxication.

In general, if a jury determined that your actions – drinking – contributed to your accident, it would then have to decide what percentage of the blame you shared, and your compensation would be reduced accordingly. If you were assigned 20 percent of the comparative negligence, for example, you would be entitled to $8,000 of a $10,000 award. If you were assigned 51 percent of the blame, you could receive no award.

Remember, an initial consultation with a Cohen & Jaffe premises liability lawyer is always free. Contact us today to set up a meeting to review your accident and begin the work to answer the questions about pursuing a claim for you.

What kind of compensation could I obtain in a personal injury lawsuit after an elevator or escalator accident?

Each case is different, but you may be able to obtain compensation for expenses such as medical bills, replacing damaged property (clothing and jewelry) and for lost income, as well as for pain and suffering. It is not possible to say how much you could obtain, but our goal in every case is to pursue compensation from all liable parties to ensure your financial recovery from your accident.

In general the compensation sought in a personal injury lawsuit would include but not necessarily be limited to:

  • Medical expenses, including costs from emergency care, hospitalization, primary and follow-up treatment, rehabilitation therapy, medication, assistive devices, etc.
  • Lost wages from missed work or missed employment opportunity since your accident and in the future in cases of disability.
  • Property damage, such as for clothing, shoes, jewelry, eyeglasses, etc., damaged or destroyed in the accident.
  • Pain and suffering, including physical and emotional or psychological pain.
  • Physical impairment, such as from loss of a finger, hand, toes or foot, or paralysis caused by the accident.
  • Loss of relations with a spouse.

We would work to calculate all of your compensable losses, with an emphasis on analyzing your medical records to determine the extent of your injuries and your expected recovery. We work with medical consultants and, in some cases, life-care planning experts to project long-term needs of disabled clients.

Read more about how compensation in a legal claim is related the type of injury suffered.

What should I do to start the process of considering a claim in my elevator or escalator accident?

If you have not contacted an attorney, we suggest contacting one with experience in New York elevator or escalator cases right away. There are several steps to take and actions to avoid to protect your rights after a serious elevator or escalator accident. A Cohen & Jaffe lawyer would be happy to help you.

In addition to setting up a free initial legal consultation about our case, you can help yourself by:

  • Making a record of the accident. If you have found this page right after your accident, try to document the accident scene by taking photos with your phone or another device. Photograph any visible problems with the elevator or escalator. Take pictures of your injuries and any torn or damaged clothing and accessories. Save any damaged clothing, jewelry, shoes, etc., as they are. As soon as you can after your accident, write down what happened while your memory is fresh.
  • Reporting your accident. Tell the building’s management about your accident and say you want to file a report. Get a copy of the report. Be sure to tell the truth, but do not say anything to blame yourself.
  • Seeing a doctor. You need to have your injuries examined and treated by a doctor for the sake of your well-being and to document the fact that you have been injured. Follow your doctor’s orders for additional treatment, rest, medication, etc. Save all receipts for medical expenses or any other expense connected to your injury.
  • Being wary of quick offers. You may hear from lawyers or insurers representing the owners of the building where you were hurt, or the company responsible for the elevator or escalator. They may offer you a settlement. It is probably less than you deserve. We suggest that you decline such an offer unless an attorney has reviewed it and advised that it be accepted. Be careful to not make statements that cast blame on yourself, and do not sign anything – you could be signing away your rights.

Once you contact Cohen & Jaffe, we can advise you about a potential claim and you can refer any questions you receive to “your attorney.” Call Cohen & Jaffe at 866-895-0420 for a free consultation, or fill out our online form and we will respond immediately. If you are injured, we can come to you.