- Property owners and management personnel have a legal duty to ensure their premises are safe for people who enter.
- Seating in public places should be inspected regularly by owners and operators for safety and repaired or removed when necessary.
- In Georgia, pre-existing physical conditions, including those associated with age, do not excuse property owner negligence.
- Obtaining necessary evidence in a chair collapse case can be difficult – but a lawyer can help.
Chairs Are Trusted to Do What Chairs Do
Most of us see a chair, bench, or other seating as an open invitation to sit. We tend to trust the chairs we encounter – particularly those in public locations where they are placed to make people more comfortable. When we take a seat, it rarely occurs to us that the available chair might be defective or broken.
Unfortunately, not all seating is adequately maintained or manufactured to keep us safe and whole.
Why Would a Chair Collapse or Break?
There are many reasons why a chair might collapse. Perhaps, the chair was improperly assembled in the first place, or the components of the chair have deteriorated over time. Bolts that secure the legs to the chair’s body might also be loose or faulty. Such components should be expertly attached and not have any weak points; however, it doesn’t always happen this way. Chairs that sit upon irregular surfaces may also be unstable and could topple over.
Other times, chairs might be poorly constructed, or the legs might be too weak to hold a certain weight, and there is rarely a warning printed on them for safety’s sake. For instance, when a chair is designed to hold a 200-pound load, and used by a 300-pound football player, it is quite probable the chair could snap under the pressure.
A collapsed chair accident is more likely to happen when the chair is older. (This may be why, in furniture stores, “floor models” are regularly sold at a discount.) Over time, the structure of the chair can be weakened by use and abuse.
Seating maintenance is often neglected or overlooked, as well. Some furniture manufacturers suggest that chairs, particularly those in public venues, be inspected every six months for weakness or wear. And when such chairs break, we might assume they are professionally repaired; however, this is not always the case. A poorly repaired chair is a dangerous one.
Broken Chairs Can Cause Serious Injuries
Many injuries can occur from a chair collapse, including but certainly not limited to the following:
- Spinal cord damage
- Herniated and bulging discs
- Nerve damage
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Broken ankles, arms, wrists, fingers, or hands
- Fractured ribs
- Knee damage
- Torn muscles or tendons
- Closed head injuries
- Tailbone injuries
- Paralysis due to spinal cord injuries
How to Identify Negligence in Broken Chair Accidents
Property owners are required to inspect their premises regularly to find and resolve possible hazards. This duty includes furniture, such as chairs and benches. It is, therefore, possible the person responsible for these inspections would have known the chair in question was potentially hazardous.
If an accident happens, an expert can complete a forensic examination of the chair to determine the cause of the chair’s failure. Your legal team has the ability to require that the broken chair is not thrown away and is made available for examination. Additionally, your lawyers will research the chair’s manufacturer to determine its load capacity and whether it was appropriate for use in a public venue.
A Broken Chair Injury Might Be a Premise Liability Legal Claim
When you enter a store, business, or another public place, the law sees you as an invitee. Because of this, you should be afforded the highest duty of care by those responsible for the property. Property owners have a legal obligation to maintain their premises to protect the people invited to visit.
Individuals with previous injuries, such as back or neck damage or those suffering the consequences of advancing age, are often the victims of chair collapses. These people might imagine when a chair collapse worsens pre-existing injuries, that they have no recourse. But this is not necessarily true.
In Georgia, pre-existing afflictions do not excuse a property owner from the consequences of negligence. Under Georgia law, the at-fault party must “take the injured party as he or she comes.” In other words, if a person has a pre-existing condition and that condition is aggravated or made worse by the accident, then the at-fault party is responsible for those injuries and their expenses.
Compensation After a Broken Chair Injury Claim
If you are injured in a chair collapse accident, the following may be eligible for compensation.
- Medical bills – The property owner, store manager, or chair manufacturer may be held responsible for your injuries. This means that the cost for treatments needed for recovery will fall upon those found at fault. Ambulance transportation, emergency room and hospital care, surgery, and subsequent doctor visits would be included in this compensation.
- Lost income – If your injuries keep you from attending work or make it impossible for you to do your job, the at-fault party can be held responsible for the money you would ordinarily have earned. This includes wages you could not collect because you had to attend physical therapy or follow-up appointments.
- Physical therapy – If your doctor prescribes physical therapy to restore your previous functionality, these costs would also be part of your compensation.
- Pain and suffering – According to Georgia law, victims should not have to endure the consequences of pain and suffering due to another person’s negligence. This can include emotional pain or suffering as a result of being unable to enjoy your usual recreational activities, such as playing golf or gardening, when these activities are restricted or eliminated because of your injuries.
Challenges That Can Come With a Broken Chair Injury Claim
It can be difficult to prove negligence in chair collapse accidents for a number of reasons.
For instance, it’s not unusual for people to immediately dismiss a chair collapse accident as unimportant if there is no immediately obvious injury. In some cases, victims don’t always report the accident to management, thinking there is no reason to do so.
Many injuries from falls do not become apparent until days after the accident occurs. Even if you think there’s no severe damage, it’s a good idea to report the accident immediately, so you preserve your rights under the law.
In reporting such an accident, you also make management aware of a problem that could injure others in the future. (Note: Even if you fail to report the incident immediately, your lawyer may be able to process your claim successfully.)
After a chair collapse accident, we might imagine that we did something wrong or were responsible in some way for the chair’s failure. This is probably not the case – chairs are meant to support human beings, and you should be entitled to rely upon that chair to do its job. (There may be exceptions to this, but a lawyer’s assessment of the circumstances is important in any case.) Please, do not immediately assume that you did something to cause the accident.
The evidence of negligence, which is the chair itself, can quickly be thrown away or otherwise eliminated in such accidents. To avoid losing this evidence, victims should consult with an attorney immediately after a chair collapse accident. The sooner your legal team can take steps to preserve the evidence, the better the chances are of securing full and fair compensation for your injuries.
What Evidence Is Critical in a Chair Injury Claim?
As in all personal injury claims, the victim must prove the facts of their claim. This means collecting relevant evidence of when, why, and how the accident happened. Some important evidence sources are:
- Eyewitnesses – Get the names and contact information of anybody who witnessed the accident so they can be interviewed and supply testimony if necessary.
- Photographs – Cell phone photos of the chair, its surroundings, and, if possible, the injuries sustained are helpful. A picture really is worth a thousand words.
- Video footage – Depending upon where the chair collapse occurred, there may be security camera footage. If the recording belongs to the store or building where the accident happened, it could be difficult to obtain. Your legal team can compel the owner to turn this evidence over.
Why Should You Hire a Lawyer for a Chair Injury Claim?
Because of the difficulties in proving a chair collapse claim, most successful claimants choose to hire a personal injury lawyer. Many legal teams offer a free consultation for such matters.
Because these professionals are trained and experienced in handling the challenges of these cases, lawyers can be especially useful in helping the victims reach a full and fair compensation package.
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Historic Chair Injury Claims
Here are just a few examples of chair collapse claims settled in recent years.
- In 2013, a man was injured when a chair collapsed in his attorney’s office; he was awarded $2.2 million dollars.
- A woman purchased and brought home a fully assembled barstool. When she sat in it the first time, it fell apart, causing her to fall and suffer spinal cord injuries. She was awarded $740,000.
- A man sat down as he was awaiting a meal in a local food court. When the chair fell apart under him, he fell, suffering back and shoulder injuries that required surgery. He was awarded $150,000.