In a city the size of New York, it’s nearly impossible to go long without setting foot in an elevator. The city’s buildings contain roughly 60,000 elevators, according to the Times. In 2010, these elevators saw 53 accidents, the Times reported.
Some of these accidents caused minor injuries, or none at all — but others resulted in death. Truth be told, there can be no minor mechanical failure in an elevator if we are to take safety seriously in this city of towering skyscrapers.
How Do Elevator Accidents Happen?
A defect in elevator design or a lapse or error in maintenance is typically the cause of an elevator accident. We must rely on the company that built the elevator, the person or company who owns it and the workers who service it to keep us safe. If they neglect their duty and someone is hurt or killed, they can and should be held responsible.
Here are a handful of the common causes of elevator accidents:
- Inadequate maintenance
- Unsafe design
- A sudden drop
- Jammed doors
- Failure to level properly
- Failure of doors to close
- Closing of the doors on someone
The injuries sustained in elevator accidents can range from minor injuries, like bruises, to more serious ones such as:
- Back and neck injuries
- Broken bones
- Head injury
Elevator accidents can happen to anyone – employees, residents, children, maintenance workers and more. Here are some things to keep in mind if you end up in an elevator at the wrong time:
- Never use an elevator during a fire.
- Press the emergency button or use the emergency phone if a problem arises.
- Tell the rescue personnel the elevator location and the floor.
- Do not try to open elevator doors that are stuck.
- Try to remain calm.
A Disturbing Case Study
One morning in December 2011, the doors of an elevator in a Midtown office building opened and advertising executive Suzanne Hart stepped in, about to start her work day. Suddenly, however, the elevator shot upward with the door still open and the woman only half-inside. She was pinned between the elevator and the wall of the elevator shaft, with half of her body still inside the elevator as other riders looked on in horror. Hart, 41, was declared dead at the scene.
The company responsible for maintaining the elevator had been working on the elevator just minutes before the tragedy occurred. Subsequent lawsuits argued that workers from the company, which was responsible for thousands of elevators in the city, failed to re-enable a safety circuit designed to prevent this from happening.
This incident was only one of 43 elevator accidents in New York City that year.
What Does the Law Say?
The City of New York can and does routinely inspect elevators, though not as often as some would like and certainly not often enough to prevent accidents from occurring.
When people are seriously injured or killed in accidents involving elevators, their legal remedy is to file a lawsuit against the person or company that bears responsibility for what happened – typically the building’s owner, the maintenance company, the elevator’s manufacturer or some combination of these parties.
This falls under the umbrella of law known as personal injury and premises liability. The owner of a property bears a legal responsibility to ensure it is safe at all times. They can even be held liable if the danger is caused by someone they hire, like a maintenance company.
If you file a lawsuit after an elevator accident, your attorney bears the burden of proving that the owner or another company was negligent in their legal duty to safety, and the attorney must show that that negligence resulted in your injury. If successful, you may be awarded compensation for your medical expenses and your suffering.
If a person is killed in an elevator accident, their legal rights don’t just disappear. Their family can bring what is called a wrongful death lawsuit arguing that the negligence resulted in death.
Of course, a lawsuit cannot bring back a loved one’s life or undo the trauma of a serious injury. But it may get compensation to make things easier for you and your family during recovery, and it sends a message that safety must be a priority.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
Successfully handling these kinds of cases requires experience in premises liability and personal injury law. Specifically, cases involving elevators require gaining access to regulatory records, inspection histories, medical records, safety standards and more. Building a strong case requires leaving no stone uncovered, and a good attorney knows where to look.
If you’ve been seriously injured in an elevator accident, you can’t risk hiring an attorney who lacks experience. You need an attorney who has built his career on personal injury cases. That’s why you should contact The Oshman Firm today if you or a loved one has been injured in an elevator accident in New York or New Jersey. It’s our job to do the legwork and build a strong case for compensation on your behalf while you focus on your health and your family.
Consultations are free and without obligation. Let us tell you what we can do to help you get justice.