Accident on Stairs: Proving Slip and Fall Liability

Accidents on stairs are not uncommon. Although they can be the result of a misstep or inattention, there are circumstances in which a property owner could be liable for injuries because of the dangerous condition of the stairs. Establishing slip and fall liability will require proof that the owner was negligent in some way.

Ways to Prove Slip and Fall Liability

There are typically three circumstances in which someone could be held responsible for injuries on his/her property, such as for accidents on the stairs. One is that the owner should have known about a dangerous condition so that it could be corrected or repaired. Another is when the owner did know but failed to do anything about it. And the last is when the dangerous condition was actually caused by the owner.

Proving one of these factors depends on the specific circumstances. Let’s say the stairs were recently washed and the slippery surface caused someone to slip and fall. In this case, the owner would presumably know that because the stairs were washed they will be slippery.

Getting pictures of the wet steps is one way to establish the cause of the slip and fall. But it would also be important to get a wider view of the staircase to show there weren’t any signs warning others of the slippery conditions or barricades to prevent access.

Sometimes stair accidents are the result of problems with the handrails (such as when they are broken or missing). It could even be that the height or depth of the steps are varied. Owners should presumably be aware of these conditions but it can also be argued they should be aware of them, even if they claim they were not.

Testimony from others could be helpful in establishing liability. An employee of a store may testify that the owner was told about a problem, such as concrete steps that were crumbling, but failed to correct it. Or witnesses might have observed debris on the stairs for several days before the accident.

Filing a Premises Liability Claim after an Accident on Stairs

Being able to establish fault is just one component of a claim. Another is establishing the owner had a duty of care to the victim. Property owners owe a duty of care to visitors to acommercial establishment, for example, as well as social guests. There is also a limited duty of care to trespassers, which involves warning of manmade hazards, such as a large, covered ditch in the middle of the property.

It’s also required to establish that the accident led to serious injuries. Injuries should be significant enough to warrant filing a premises liability claim.

Extent of injuries and their related damages can be proven through medical records including: 

  • hospitalization bills;
  • prescription medications;
  • discharge papers; and
  • X-rays.

Contacting an Attorney if Injured on Someone Else’s Property

Whether it happens at a mall, restaurant, hotel, someone’s residence or any other establishment, accidents on stairs can be the result of numerous hazards.

Injuries that could merit a slip and fall claim on stairs: 

  • broken tread;
  • loose/ripped carpeting;
  • irregularity in the spacing of steps; and
  • numerous other dangerous conditions.

It could be that the design of the steps or staircase was flawed, it wasn’t properly maintained or there were other circumstances that led to an accident. Proving this can be challenging, which is why it’s generally in an injured person’s best interest to seek legal advice.

Gacovino, Lake & Associates can help collect the proper evidence that will be necessary to prove slip and fall liability and we can establish the kinds of damages recoverable in the claim.

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