Who is Held Responsible for Elevator and Escalator Accidents?

Key Points:

  • Approximately 17,000 people are injured in elevator or escalator accidents every year.
  • Elevator and escalator accidents are often extremely dangerous because of the nature of the incidents.
  • According to the common carrier rule, elevator and escalator operators must go beyond just taking reasonable steps to ensure they are safe. The owner has an “extraordinary duty” to be extra careful.

There are thousands of escalators and elevators throughout Atlanta. They are found in apartments, office buildings, shopping malls, airports and grocery stores. Most people ride on these escalators or elevators frequently. In the vast majority of cases, they do so without incident or injury. Unfortunately, however, sometimes people can get hurt.

If you or a loved one is injured on an escalator or elevator, you have certain legal rights. An Atlanta escalator/elevator accident lawyer can help you to take action after an accident so you can obtain compensation available to you under Georgia law.

To learn more about how we can help, contact The Millar Law Firm. Call us today at 404-620-4301 or fill out our online form. We can provide a free consultation about your case.

Who is at Risk of Elevator and Escalator Accidents?

Each year, approximately 17,000 people are injured in accidents on elevators or escalators. Another 30 people lose their lives. Elevators are the more dangerous of the two. They account for roughly 90 percent of the deaths and 60 percent of the serious injuries.

In many cases, elevator or escalator accidents happen when people are performing work or maintenance. In fact, around 50 percent of the deaths each year occur when workers fall down an elevator shaft, are caught in moving parts of an elevator or are otherwise injured on the job.

Workers, however, are not the only ones in danger. Others at risk include:

  • People who ride elevators on a daily basis – These include office workers and workers in hotel or retail establishments. Between 1992 and 2003, 68 people died as passengers on elevators at work.  This is an average of about six deaths per year. Anyone who regularly uses an elevator at work is at risk. This includes clerks, stock handlers and janitors, among others – all of whom work in buildings where riding an elevator is required frequently.
  • Those visiting shopping malls, airports, apartments or offices – From 1992 to 2003, there were 24 non-workers killed on an escalator. This is approximately two people per year.
  • Children – Young people face the greatest risk of being injured on an escalator, especially very young children. In fact, approximately half of all injuries involving people being trapped between an escalator and a wall involve children five and under. CBS News has warned that children are at the greatest danger of escalator accidents, citing stories of young children losing limbs after getting their hands sucked into gaps on store escalators.
  • Elderly – Older Americans are at great risk of being injured in elevator accidents, especially when an elevator is crowded. Elderly face special dangers because walking or moving is often more difficult for them. They may have a cane or walker and may be more unsteady on their feet. As Aging Well Magazine describes, the elderly are often injured when their walkers and canes become stuck as the elevator is closing. In fact, data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission indicates that approximately 44,870 older adults were injured severely enough in an elevator that they needed to visit the hospital.
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How Do The Most Common Elevator and Escalator Accidents Happen?

Elevator and escalator accidents can occur for different reasons. Some of the common reasons include:

  • Accidents while performing elevator maintenance – Since 1982, 25 people have fallen down elevator shafts when they were working. The victims included workers performing maintenance, workers performing construction and workers simply using elevators.
  • Elevator doors opening with no car in the elevator shaft – Eighteen passengers between 1992 and 2003 were killed when elevator doors opened and there was no car, resulting in deadly falls.
  • Passengers being caught in elevator doors – The elderly are especially at risk for this type of injury.
  • People falling on escalators – Between 1992 and 2003, sixteen people fell on an escalator and died of resulting injuries. Seven of those people suffered a head injury. Four died when riding on the side rails of an escalator and falling off. An estimated 75 percent of escalator injuries are attributed to falls.
  • People becoming trapped at the bottom or the top of an escalator or becoming trapped between the side wall and the escalator – Tragically, eight people were killed between 1992 and 2003 when caught in an escalator. Often, the victim’s clothing became trapped at the bottom or the top of an escalator or body parts or clothing were trapped between the escalator and a sidewall. About 20 percent of injuries occurred when people were trapped in an escalator.

Typical Injuries in Elevator and Escalator Accidents

Elevator and escalator accidents are often extremely dangerous because of the nature of the incidents. Elevators are large and heavy with many moving parts and complicated electrical work, while escalators have sharp teeth that can cause amputation of limbs.

While there are many different types of injuries that can be suffered as a result of elevator or escalator accidents, some of the most common include:

  • Head injuries
  • Broken bones
  • Spinal injury
  • Back, neck or shoulder injury
  • Loss of limbs, especially fingers and toes
  • Crushing injuries
  • Electrocution.

Death may also occur due to an elevator or escalator accident. When serious injuries or fatalities occur, the costs are often very significant. Injured victims or surviving family members can obtain compensation for medical costs, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress, wrongful death, loss of companionship and other applicable damages as appropriate to fully compensate the victim for his/her losses.

Who Should be Held Responsible for Elevator and Escalator Accidents?

Under Georgia law, the owner of an elevator is considered a “common carrier.” This has a special legal meaning. A common carrier has the obligation to “exercise extraordinary diligence to protect the lives and persons of its passengers.”

Normally, when a person suffers an injury at a store, an apartment or any place else he is visiting, the injured victim has to show that the property owner was negligent or in breach of his/her legal duty. Because of the common carrier rule, the operator of an elevator has an obligation to elevator passengers that goes beyond just taking reasonable steps to make sure the elevator is safe. The elevator owner has an “extraordinary duty” to be extra careful.

Different ways that an owner can fall short of living up to his required duty include failure to:

  • Have maintenance performed.
  • Follow maintenance recommendations of professionals.
  • Report elevator problems to the maintenance company responsible for taking care of the elevator.

If you are the victim of an elevator accident, you will need to show that these or other failures occurred and that the duty of care that was owed to you, as an elevator passenger, was breached.

For those in escalator accidents, it is also important to show that a breach of duty occurred and that injury followed as a result.

When you are able to successfully prove that negligence or a breach of duty caused an elevator or escalator accident that hurt you, you may be able to make a claim against:

  • The owner/operator of the elevator
  • The elevator maintenance company
  • The owner/operator of the store/building.

Your ability to make a claim will depend on where you were when the injury occurred, why you were there, who owned the building and who owned and operated the elevator.

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Getting Help from an Atlanta Escalator/Elevator Accident Lawyer

Elevator and escalator accidents can change your life, permanently injuring you or ending in the death of a loved one. If you or someone you care about has been the victim of an escalator or elevator accident, you need to explore your legal rights.

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