When people are injured while walking up or down a staircase, they often blame themselves. The truth, however, is that negligent maintenance or faulty construction can make a stairway unreasonably dangerous. If you or someone you love was hurt while traversing a staircase, the property owner or another party may be liable for the resulting medical bills, pain and suffering, and other damages.
At the end of the day, if the injuries happened due to a hazard that could have been reasonably prevented, you may have grounds for a claim. Examples of such hazards include:
- Stairs built with improper depth or height,
- Missing or damaged boards,
- Missing or damaged handrails,
- Rotten or poorly maintained boards,
- Uneven stairs,
- Slippery stairway surfaces,
- Sudden drops without warning, and
- Inadequate lighting.
What Does California Law Say About Stairway Maintenance?
Section 3231 of the California Code of Regulations outlines some of the requirements for stairway construction and maintenance. Those requirements include but are not limited to the following:
- Stairways must have a width of at least 44 inches if serving an occupant load of more than 50, or 36 inches if the occupant load is less than 50, or 30 inches if the stairway is private and the occupant load is less than 10;
- Every step must have a rise of at least 4 inches but no more than 7.5 inches, except private stairways with an occupant load of less than 10 and stairways to unoccupied roofs;
- The surface must be slip-resistant and maintained clear and in good repair; and
- Staircases must have code-compliant handrails.
Is It Possible to Bring a Premises Liability Claim Even If No Building Code Was Violated?
Yes. Even if no building code was violated, it may still be possible to recover damages if it can be shown that another party’s negligence contributed to your injury; however, you must be able to prove all of the following:
- The party that owned, possessed, or controlled the staircase at the time of the injury owed you a duty of care;
- That duty of care was breached; and
- The breach of duty was a proximate cause of your damages.
While a building code violation could certainly be considered negligent, there are other ways the property owner may have breached the duty of care owed to you—for example, by failing to ensure there was adequate lighting or failing to place warnings about a sudden drop-off.
When Should I Hire a Premises Liability Lawyer?
The smartest step you can take to protect your claim is to contact a premises liability attorney right away. The business entity or person who you bring the claim against might try to cover up evidence of negligence by fixing the staircase or deleting surveillance footage. It is important that your lawyer is able to investigate the case while this and other time-sensitive evidence is still available.
Your attorney can handle the logistics of your case so you can focus on your health—and so you don’t make any critical mistakes that would jeopardize your claim. For instance, your lawyer can review business and property records to identify the party that owned, possessed, and/or controlled the property at the time of your injury.
A skilled premises liability attorney will also know how to identify concealed defects and building code violations. Your lawyer will know the kinds of evidence needed to build the strongest possible case and can file subpoenas to obtain evidence that is being withheld by the defendant. If necessary, medical and financial experts can be brought in to provide deposition regarding the types of damages you have incurred and their value.
Perhaps most important, getting an attorney involved from day one can greatly alleviate the stress that you and your family are experiencing. Your lawyer can take over correspondence with the opposing party so you don’t provide any harmful statements, and can explain the steps you must take to give your claim the best possible chance of success.
What Are Some Common Injuries Associated with Staircase Fall Accidents?
The types of injuries you sustained and their severity can have a major impact on how your case unfolds. It is sometimes necessary to bring in medical experts, economists, and vocational experts to provide expert opinion testimony regarding the value of past and future damages. Such testimony can be especially important in cases that involve long-term or permanent disability.
Below are just a few examples of common injuries sustained in staircase fall accidents:
- Brain trauma,
- Muscle tears,
- Ankle injuries,
- Broken and fractured bones,
- Knee ligament injuries,
- Nerve damage, and
- Slipped disc.
Even if your injury does not seem critical, it is still essential that you visit a doctor right away. Delaying medical treatment could lead to a less favorable prognosis and prolonged recovery, so the defense might argue that your own negligence has contributed to the severity of your injury. This might prevent you from obtaining compensation for 100 percent of your damages. Ideally, you should undergo a medical evaluation immediately after leaving the scene but certainly before 48 hours have passed. If you delayed medical care, a resourceful attorney may still be able to help you recover a fair settlement, but you should visit a doctor right away for an official diagnosis.
Call (562) 206-1939 to Speak with a Premises Liability Attorney in Long Beach
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
Attorney Michael D. Waks has more than 30 years of experience representing the injured and their families. Michael has won numerous six- and seven-figure settlements and verdicts for his clients. He holds an AV-Preeminent rating from the prestigious Martindale-Hubbell attorney rating service—the highest rating awarded.
If you or a member of your family was hurt on a poorly maintained or negligently constructed stairway, contact us to schedule a free consultation. We will determine if your case has merit, explain the potential strengths and weaknesses of your claim, and help you plot the way forward. Call (562) 206-1939 or message us HERE to speak with a member of our team.
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