Slips and falls are consistently among the most common causes of injuries in the Chicago area. When serious, the injuries caused by falls can often require emergency medical treatment. The injuries may even leave victims with long-term medical problems and life-altering disabilities. When injury-causing falls occur on dangerous stairs, victims may recover compensation for any losses they sustain as a result of their accidents.
At Abels & Annes, P.C., we understand how profoundly a serious fall down the stairs can damage a person’s life, and we are committed to helping victims obtain the compensation to which Illinois law entitles them. To schedule a free case evaluation with one of our Chicago personal injury attorneys, contact us online or call our office at (312) 924-7575.
When Can People Recover Compensation for Falls on Stairs?
Just as with other accidents, you are entitled to compensation for a fall on dangerous stairs. However, you must establish that your accident was the result of someone else’s negligence.
Property owners have duties to take reasonable steps to keep their properties in a safe conditions. This is especially pertinent when they have invited the general public to it. For instance, with places where people shop, eat, drink, or otherwise engage in commercial activity.
What Do I Have to Prove If I Fall Down Stairs?
Property owners have a duty of care to take reasonable care to ensure their property is safe, as stated under Illinois’ Premises Liability Act.
Property owners and anyone in charge of their property must ensure that it is safe for individuals who live there and who visit. This extends to areas that people frequent, such as entrances, bathrooms, and stairwells.
If you were injured while on another person’s property and you believe that their negligence caused your injuries, you may be able to seek compensation for your damages. In order to do this, you must be able to prove that:
- A condition on the property presented an unreasonable risk of harm to those living at or visiting the property.
- The property owner was aware, or should have been aware, that the condition existed and that it was a hazard.
- The property owner was negligent because of something they did or did not do.
- The incident you were involved in resulted in an injury or injuries.
- The property owner’s negligence was the leading cause of your injury.
Hazards that Cause Falls Down Stairs
Dangerous conditions, with respect to stairwells, that could indicate negligence on the part of a property owner or leaseholder include:
Missing or broken handrails
Staircases having more than four steps (or risers) are typically legally required to have something to hold onto while you go up and down. If legally required handrails are missing, broken, or damaged, it prevents a serious risk of falling.
Some stairwells have no lighting at all. Others have dim lighting or broken/burnt-out lightbulbs. Or perhaps a light switch that isn’t present at both the top and bottom of the staircase. All of these poor lighting conditions could cause a person to fall on a staircase due to decreased visibility.
Crooked steps or uneven stairs can cause a person to miss their next step or to trip in a way that results in a dangerous fall.
There are a few different types of spills on stairs that can cause a hazard. This may include a spill caused by a customer or employee or something from a maintenance issue. Depending on the specific circumstances, you may be able to hold the property owner responsible in these situations.
Accumulations of snow or ice
Uncleared ice or snow on exterior stairs can be hazardous since it makes the walking surface slippery and can cause a slip and fall. In some cases, unremoved snow or ice could be the responsibility of the property owner or caretaker. Snow removal cases have become much more difficult to prove under Illinois law. So it is best to speak to a lawyer as soon as practicable.
Carpets naturally break down over time because of high traffic. If carpets aren’t well maintained and replaced when necessary, it can present a hazard that could cause a fall down a flight of stairs.
A fall can occur if the spaces between the steps are uneven. This can cause someone to over- or underestimate the distance to the next step. This a fundamental design problem that may pose a safety hazard.
Inadequate non-slip tread
Rubber treading helps to prevent slip and falls from occurring by providing extra traction. However, these treads are only helpful when they’re present and in good condition. Torn up tread can all prevent a fall hazard.
No stair markings
Some stairs require hazard markings to ensure that they’re safe. For example, if the top of a staircase is around the corner or hidden in some way, it is the property owner’s responsibility to inform people on their property.
Stairs that are damaged can obviously create a tripping hazard. Some of the most common types of damage include chipped concrete, broken tiles, and rotted wood.
If the condition or construction of the stairs violates local or state building codes, it could be noncompliant with safety regulations that prevent dangerous hazards leading to a fall. Depending on what code was violated and how, it may be the owner, designer, construction company, or installer, that is responsible for the damages.
How Design Can Make Stairs Dangerous
It’s not just the condition of the stairs that create slip and fall problems. The way that a stairwell was designed possibly makes it inherently dangerous for everyone who uses it. In such a case, you could possibly hold the person or party who designed the stairs liable for any resulting injuries.
Similarly, if stairs were poorly manufactured or made with substandard materials, accident victims may initiate legal action against the party responsible for the construction of the stairs or the manufacturing of the materials.
Falls on Dangerous Stairs Can Cause Extremely Serious Injuries
Stairs are a particularly dangerous place to lose your footing. The force of gravity can cause you to fall down multiple stairs, potentially causing injuries with each impact. As a result, many people who fall on dangerous stairs sustain injuries that require medical treatment. They can cause issues for significant periods of time after their accidents actually took place. Serious injuries that people can sustain in stairwell falls include:
Traumatic brain injuries
Traumatic brain injuries, which are sometimes referred to simply as “TBIs,” can occur during stairwell falls if a person’s head hits a stair, the wall, a handrail, or another object with sufficient force. Mild TBIs such as concussions can leave victims with headaches, dizziness, and sensitivity to light or sounds that can last for months. More serious brain injuries have the potential to result in long-term disabilities that can destroy a person’s ability to earn a living or perform daily tasks without significant assistance.
Many victims of falls on stairs suffer broken bones that are extremely painful and even disfiguring. In many cases, broken bones require weeks or months to heal and can result in victims requiring surgeries and rehabilitative treatments.
Spinal cord injuries
Spinal cord injuries can cause muscle weakness, numbness, loss of range of motion, and even paralysis below the site of the injury. These injuries can dramatically affect a person’s life and create lasting problems and financial strain.
Neck and back Injuries
Another common injury that occurs when a person falls down a set of stairs is a neck or back injury. This refers to injuries that do not directly affect the spinal cord. For example, this grouping of injuries can include a herniated disc, fracture, or muscle sprain. Neck and back injuries can require surgery, physical therapy, expensive medications, and other expenses that can put a financial strain on an individual and their family. Additionally, you may also be left without a paycheck while you recover or attend necessary medical appointments.
Soft tissue injuries
Soft tissue injuries include bruises, torn muscle fibers (contusions), and torn ligaments (strains). A person can usually fully recover from a soft tissue injury. However, the injury can still cause damages related to medical bills, medication costs, rehabilitation fees, and pain and suffering.
Facial and dental injuries
Slip and falls that occur on stairs have a greater chance of causing facial and dental injuries. This is especially true when the fall occurs as a person goes down the stairs. Facial and dental injuries include a broken nose, fractured or dislocated jaw, broken cheekbone, and broken teeth. These injuries are extremely painful. But they can create lasting scars and cause impairments like blindness. Additionally, they can leave a person with substantial financial damages.
Paralysis is caused by damage to the spinal cord. When the spinal cord is torn or damaged (either partially or completely), it impacts how the brain communicates with the rest of the body. This damage can result in a victim losing certain abilities. For example, the ability to control their arm(s), their ability to walk, or both. Obviously, paralysis is a serious, catastrophic injury that causes a victim to suffer severe pain, financial strain, and life-changing challenges. When a person is paralyzed because of a negligent property owner, they have the right to seek compensation from the individual or company who caused or contributed to their injuries.
Your injuries do not have to be as severe as the ones listed above to entitle you to compensation. People who sustain injuries like bruises, dislocations, sprains, cuts, or strains are often able to obtain a significant settlement or award. So don’t make the mistake of thinking that your injuries are too minor to warrant speaking to an attorney.
Protect Your Rights After a Fall Down the Stairs
Unfortunately for victims, compensation after serious accidents does not happen automatically, and you should take steps to protect your rights after you fall down dangerous stairs. These include:
- Make note of the hazardous condition that caused your fall and take pictures of it if possible
- Try and get contact information from anyone who may have seen your accident
- If your accident occurred on commercial property, notify management and make sure that someone creates an official incident report
- Refrain from posting about your accident on social media
- Do not provide someone else’s insurance company with a written or recorded statement
- Undergo a thorough medical evaluation and do everything your doctor recommends
- Contact an experienced slip and fall lawyer as soon as possible.
In addition, keep in mind that all personal injury claims in Illinois are subject to a statute of limitations, which means that waiting too long to file a claim could result in an inability to recover compensation at all.
How an Attorney Can Help Your Slip and Fall Injury Case
An attorney who has experience with slip and fall cases involving stairs will be able to help you build a strong case so that you can recover compensation for the various damages you have suffered. Hiring an attorney will give you access to their experience, knowledge, and resources.
Slip and fall attorneys can send out investigators, hire architects and structural engineers, contact medical experts, and gather other important evidence like video in order to create a full picture of what happened and who was responsible. Most people have never handled anything like this on their own before. That is okay, since no one wants to be in this situation. So hiring an attorney gives you the best possible chance of recovering compensation by using their experience and resources to advocate for compensation for your injuries.
[Read: Timeline of a Personal Injury Case]
Call Abels & Annes Today to Speak With a Chicago Personal Injury Lawyer
If you were injured in a serious accident involving dangerous or defective stairs, contact a lawyer as soon as you can. The lawyers of Abels & Annes, P.C., will review the facts of your case at no cost to you and let you know whether we believe you have a claim. Furthermore, we take all of our personal injury cases on a contingent-fee basis. This means you won’t owe us anything for legal representation unless we recover compensation on your behalf. To schedule your free consultation with one of our Chicago personal injury attorneys, call our office today at (312) 924-7575 or send us an email through our online contact form.