Escalators are common, everyday means of transportation, but they're also complicated, heavy pieces of machinery that are constantly in motion. Around 10,000 people in the U.S. are injured each year on escalators, and three-fourths of those injuries are due to slips and falls. If you've been injured due to a slip or fall on an escalator, can you sue the owner for your personal injuries? There are some important questions for you to know.
Does The Escalator's Owner Bear Responsibility For Your Fall?
Escalators are usually found in stores, shopping centers, and hospitals. These businesses have a duty to maintain safety on their property. Because of this, personal injury cases involving a slip and fall usually focus on whether or not the property owner was careless about that duty.
In other words, the big question becomes, "Who is responsible, or has liability, for your injuries?" Is it you? Or the escalator's owner?
In order to prove that the escalator's owner has liability for your injuries, you need to show that the owner (or his or her employees):
- caused the dangerous condition,
- knew about the condition and didn't do anything to fix it, or
- should have known about the condition and done something to fix it.
Most of the time, the issue is whether or not the property owner "should have known" about the dangerous condition. Liability is basically determined by asking if a reasonable person could have anticipated the problem that caused your fall.
Could The Accident Have Been Prevented By The Escalator's Owner?
Many elevator accidents could be prevented by a little common sense and maintenance. Mechanical failures have caused pieces of escalators to fall off or to abruptly stop moving. In situations like that, it would be important to show how often the escalator is cleaned, mechanically inspected, and what sort of repairs or previous malfunctions it's already had.
Another question that will likely be addressed as part of any escalator fall lawsuit is whether or not there had been previous falls on the escalator. If there were previous falls, the owners could reasonably be expected to know another fall could happen, unless additional safety measures were added.
Your attorney will also probably develop evidence that shows whether or not there are any safety measures on the escalator, including guard rails and emergency stop buttons. Other questions that might relate to your fall include how old the escalator is, how fast the escalator runs, the size of any handrails (to show easily they are or are not to grip), and how high the handrails are (since lower rails are easier to fall over).
Are You Responsible For Any Part Of The Accident?
If you are responsible for any part of the accident, it can affect the outcome of your lawsuit. In some states, the rule of "contributory negligence" is followed. If you are even 1% responsible for your slip and fall, you can't recover any damages for your injuries.
In other states, the rule of "comparative fault" is followed, and it allows you to collect damages, but under some restrictions. Depending on the state, you can only collect damages if your share of the responsibility for the accident was less than 50%.
In other states, you can still collect some damages even if you are 99% at fault, but any money that you receive will be reduced by whatever percent is your fault. That means that if you are 99% at fault for your fall, you'll only collect 1% of any damages you're awarded.
Because of these rules, things like whether or not you were taking medication that could have made you dizzy, a history of balance problems, or your use of adaptive devices like a cane or walker become important issues if you sue.
Most people don't think of escalators as dangerous places, but a slip and fall on one can be physically and financially devastating. Since every case is different, don't assume that you can't recover for your injuries, no matter what the rules in your state, until you've spoken with a slip and fall attorney.