Stairway Falls and Accidents
There are many stairways and staircases inside buildings and apartment complexes and condos in the Seattle, Kirkland, Bellingham, and Olympia area. Most of them are perfectly safe and free from dangers. However, there are some that are very dangerous and pose serious hazards to people. There are many ways to get hurt on a stairwell.
Some of the more common ways are people tripping and falling down them because of uneven risers, risers that are not clearly marked, or a handrail that comes off in their hands as they are walking, which causes them to trip and fall and hurt themselves. The building owners of these stairwells have a duty to make sure the stairwells are safe and up to building code.Washington State Stairwell Laws
Washington State has very specific laws with respect to how stairways and handrails are to be constructed and maintained. Here is the relevant law on the subject:
WAC 246-359-520 Door landings, stairways and guardrails.
- (1) Door landings. Every door must have, at a minimum, a floor area or landing with:
- (a) A width not less than the width of the door or the width of the stairway served, whichever is greater; and
- (b) A length not less than thirty-six inches.
- (2) Stairways. Every stairway having two or more risers must meet the following requirements:
- (a) Rise and run. The rise of steps and stairs must not be less than four inches nor more than eight inches. The greatest riser height within any flight of stairs must not exceed the smallest by more than three-eighths inch. The run must not be less than nine inches. Stair treads must be of uniform size and shape except the largest tread run within any flight of stairs must not exceed the smallest by more than three-eighths inch.
- (3) Handrails.
- (a) At least one handrail is required when a stairway has three or more risers;
- (b) The top of a handrail must be placed not less than thirty-four inches or more than thirty-eight inches above the nosing of the treads.
- (c) Handrails must be continuous the full length of the stairs.
- (d) The handgrip portion of a handrail must:
- (i) Not be less than one and one-quarter inches nor more than two inches in cross-sectional dimension; and
- (ii) Have a smooth surface with no sharp corners.
- (e) Handrails projecting from a wall must have a space of not less than one and one-half inches between the wall and the handrail.
- (4) Guardrails. Unenclosed porches, balconies, and landings, which are more than thirty inches above grade or floor below must not be less than thirty-six inches in height and must have intermediate rails spaced such that a sphere four inches in diameter cannot pass through.
Keep in mind that the law is clear in Washington State that the owner of a building only has a duty to make the building safe from known dangers or defects. Alternatively, the owner of the building has a duty to make the building safe from reasonably foreseeable defects. The circumstances of your particular case obviously govern how the law will be applied. In many cases, it can be extremely helpful to have evidence or some kind of proof showing that the owners of the building in which the stairway was located had notice that the staircase was defective in some way or had some kind of problems.
The most common forms of stairwell accidents are:
- Poor lighting in the stairwell
- Broken handrails
- Missing handrail
- Missing steps
- Broken steps
- Steps that are not uniform
- Steps that are slippery or worn down
It is important to understand that there are certain legal duties that will apply to you depending on who you are classified as, legally speaking, at the time of your injury. For instance, if you have no permission to be on the stairway when you were injured, then you have no claim against the apartment or building owner for your injuries unless they somehow went out of their way to injure you. Legally, this is known as a trespasser.
If you are on the property as a guest of the apartment or building, then you are owed a duty of what is known as reasonable care, meaning that the apartment or building owner must either have known or reasonably should have known of the dangers posed by the stairwell and taken corrective action.
If you are a guest but on the property for a business purpose, then this is known as a licensee, legally speaking. A licensee is owed the same duties as an invitee from a legal standpoint, which is to say that the owner of the apartment or building has a duty to make sure the stairwell was free from known dangers or reasonably should have known. Again, having proof of other, similar incidents involving injuries to people on the stairwell can help prove your case can be very helpful in proving your case.Exceptions to Liability
If you have been injured on a stairway, you rightfully deserve to be compensated if it can be proven that the business or apartment owner did not legally and properly maintain their stairwell. However, this is not to say prevailing on your claim will be easy.
Statistically, these case are difficult to win. Oftentimes the defense for the apartment or building owner of the stairwell will be as simple as: you should have watched where you were going when you tripped and fell. This of course may not be true as it may have been impossible not to slip or trip given the condition of the stairwell, but it’s a common defense that has, in many instances, been successful in court.
Additional arguments advanced by the defense are:
- You knew ahead of time about the danger that led you to be hurt
- The danger was considered “open and obvious,” meaning anyone could see it
- The owner of the property or business where you were either didn’t know or reasonably could not have known about the danger that hurt you
- You caused your injury by not using the premises correctly
In any case, having an expert, usually an engineer, can greatly increase the chances of you winning your case by identifying how the stairwell was defective or dangerous and can point out how easy and cheap it would have been to remedy the defect or problematic condition that led to your injury. An experienced attorney, such as The Jackman Law Firm, can help you in this regard.Common Stairway Injuries
If you have been injured in a trip and fall or slip and fall on a business’ stairway, then you may have suffered one of the following injuries:
- Broken bones
- Soft tissue injuries
- Back injuries
- Butt or tailbone injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
Injuries of this serious of a nature rarely just heal on their own. Rather, they require medical attention to address them. Medical specialists such as osteopaths, physiatrists, and chiropractors can help you get back to the path to health after suffering a serious injury on someone else’s property. If you need assistance with finding a doctor, The Jackman Law Firm can help you in this regard too.How The Jackman Law Firm Can Help
If you have been injured on a stairway, you may have a claim against the building owner or apartment complex owner to recoup compensation for your injuries. The Jackman Law Firm has the expertise to effectively represent you with the insurance company, in arbitration and if necessary in court to secure your rights for compensation and relief. After your injury, you are understandably upset and likely unsure of your options and which way to with your case. You are likely receiving a lot of phone calls from insurance companies, you’re going to the doctor or the chiropractor, and you may be missing work.
If this is the case, do not go through this process alone. We can help you every step of the way. We can work with the insurance companies so they do not contact you. We can help you secure all of the compensation you are owed for your injury under Washington State Law. The Jackman Law Firm can help you recover the following:
- Money for pain and suffering
- Money for lost wages
- Money for out of pocket expenses
- Money for medical bills
We have the resources, experience, and successful track record to win your case. There may be instances when you find yourself having to defend yourself from untrue accusations from the insurance company for the party that injured you. They may claim that you are somehow either entirely at fault or partly at fault for your injuries.
For instance, if you suffered a neck injury because you tripped and fell on a staircase at an apartment complex, the insurance company for the complex may argue that you should have watched where you were going. If this is the case, the Jackman Law Firm can help you by sending a subpoena for documents from the company, interviewing key witnesses, and speaking to the police to see if we can do everything possible to prove your case in your favor. Feel free to call for a free consultation.