Stairs and Stairwells or Stairways
You might be surprised to learn that injuries to people who fall down stairs and flights of stairs is the one of the most common type of slip and fall that injure people in Indiana in Indiana.
That’s because stairs and flights of stairs are everywhere – it’s hard to imagine ea building or house that does not contain a flight of stairs to use.
Recovery for a slip and falls down stairs or flights of stairs is based on a legal theory known as premises liability. An owner of a property, whether a motel, hotel or landlord, must maintain the stairs and flights of stairs in a reasonably safe condition or be subject to liability to people who fall.
Owners and managers of retail businesses have a responsibility to take notice of the interior and exterior of their premises in order to discover unsafe conditions and defects. Next, upon learning of unsafe conditions, the business landowners or possessors must take steps to remedy the hazardous condition in order to prevent injuries to customers and patrons.
To establish a claim for “negligence” on the part of a landlord, business owner or apartment complex, you must show that the duty of “reasonable care” was breached (not met). This means the property owner must have actual or constructive knowledge (knew or should have known) of the presence of the hazardous condition of the stairs in order to be held liable. Schulz v. Kroger Co., 963 N.E.2d 1141, 1144 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012).
At Shaw Law, we believe it is never “reasonable” for a landowner to do anything but the safest choice available – especially if that choice costs little or nothing in order to ensure the property is safe for everybody.Causes of Falls Down Stairs and Flights of Stairs
Many injuries to guests using stairs and flights of stairs occurs due to improper height or depth of the stair itself. This might seem ridiculous at first blush – of course, stairs come in different heights and sizes – but there are industry standards that exist for stairs when it comes to making them easy to use for pedestrians.
Furthermore, stairs and flights of stairs might come with guardrails that are absent, damaged, weak, shaky, or too low to be effective could be an invitation to a serious accident.
Stairs and flights of stairs can become slippery when wet – and standards exist for interior stairs with regard to resistance to slipping.
Slip and falls down stairs and flights of stairs can also occur when they become snowy or icy – these unsafe conditions require the landowner to do something affirmatively.
Landlords, business owners, hotels, motels and other retail businesses can be held liable for customers and guests who slip on ice and snow on stairs and flight of stairs that are potentially dangerous. Landowners and business proprietors cannot simply ignore snow and ice conditions on stairs and hope to avoid liability. Affirmative action must be taken -- a property owner has a general duty to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition – and this duty applies to the removal of natural accumulations of snow and ice from stairs that guests are expected to use. Hammond v. Allegretti, 262 Ind. 82, 311 N.E.2d 821 (1974).
There are standard consumer safety specifications when it comes to bathing or showering for slip resistance in Indiana structures.How to Hold a Landowner Responsible for Injuries That Occur From a Fall Down Stairs or a Flight of Stairs in Indiana
To establish a claim for “negligence” on the part of a hotel, motel, resort owner, business owner or apartment complex, you must show that the duty of “reasonable care” was breached (not met). This means the property owner must have actual or constructive knowledge (knew or should have known) of the presence of the hazardous condition of the stairs and flights of stairs in order to be held liable. Schulz v. Kroger Co., 963 N.E.2d 1141, 1144 (Ind. Ct. App. 2012).
At Shaw Law, we believe it is never “reasonable” for a landowner to do anything but the safest choice available – especially if that choice costs little or nothing in order to ensure the stairs and flights of stairs are safe for everybody – children, the frail, handicapped persons or the elderly.
One way to hold a hotel, motel, resort owner, business owner or landlord responsible for the dangerous condition of stairs or flights of stairs is if the property owner landlord should have discovered the unsafe condition based on a reasonable inspection schedule. That is called “constructive knowledge” of the problem – whatever the problem might be. It’s not required that the landowner know of the specific problem, but rather a general idea that the area is dangerous as it is currently being used.
Another way is if you or another guest informed the hotel, motel, business owner or landowner about the dangerous condition of the stairs – whether it’s a malfunctioning handrail or the absence of a second handrail -- and they took no action to fix it. That type of information provides “notice” or actual knowledge to the property owner or the landlord of the unsafe condition of its stairs and flights of stairs.
Another way to hold a property owner or landlord responsible is to prove the landowner was aware of the dangerous condition of the stairs, but didn't put up an appropriate warning sign to advise you of the potential danger, prevent you or others from using the Stairs and flights of stairs or fix the problem.
Furthermore, it might be possible to hold the motel, hotel, business owner, resort owner or landlord or proprietor responsible if the stairs and flights of stairs was not designed properly or mounted correctly.
Another consideration is whether the stairs and flights of stairs met the law known as the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) that require appropriate handrails and other requirements.
There are industry standards when it comes to the design, maintenance and construction of stairs in Indiana. These standards can have the effect of law when adopted by the state. Additionally, a failure to maintain stairs according to industry standards can be considered as evidence of “negligence” by a jury – even if they are not required by law.
For example, one type of industry standard is called the “ASTM” standards. ASTM International is an international group of scientists and engineers, founded in 1898, that establishes and publishes voluntary standards for a wide-range of products – including stairs and walkways – that many organizations adopt and use when constructing or designing stairs or flights of stairs.
There are specific ASTM standards regarding stairs height, depth, slip resistance, handrails and other items. These specifications establish the definitions, methods of testing the slip resistance of stairs and the in-use performance requirements of handrails needed to minimize accidents. When followed, it is intended to reduce accidents to persons, especially children and the aged, resulting from the use of bathing facilities.
The bottom line is this – it’s difficult to navigate a successful claim for slip and falls while using stairs and flights of stairs in Indiana without excellent legal assistance.
An experienced Indiana slip and fall lawyer who deals with slip and falls by people using stairs and flights of stairs understands these methods of recovering from hotel, motel, resort owners or landlords, apartment complexes and business owners or proprietors for injuries.
Call us at Shaw Law for real answers.
We get you back on your feet.