“Stair fall premises liability” might seem like a complicated subject, but it has a simple definition. It refers specifically to who is at fault when someone falls down a flight of stairs and is injured.
Usually, it comes down to who owns and manages the property and whether the stairs were properly lit, built, and maintained, as well as any negligence on another person’s part. All of these issues can be complicated to parse, which is why an experienced Santa Barbara personal injury attorney is so important after any staircase fall that results in serious injury.
Proper Construction – Building Codes
Stairs must be built properly to begin with, which is why California has building codes in place, and each county and city requires construction/building permits. These codes govern things like required sizes for the “rise”—the vertical part of each step—and the “run”—the horizontal part of each step. These codes also regulate how each stair must be similar to the previous one so that no one is surprised by a sudden change in distance from one step to the next.
Proper Maintenance and Repairs
Construction of stairs is only the beginning, as there are also rules and regulations for how stairs need to be maintained and repaired. This includes things like requiring handrails for most stairways, which must be kept tight and sturdy to provide support. When stairs are crumbling, they need to be repaired in a reasonable time—and the repairs must meet the current building codes for the most part, not the codes in place when the stairs were originally built.
Inadequate lighting can certainly be the cause of a stairway fall. In the dark, a tenant or visitor will be unable to see a handrail or the depression where the stairs start. California courts have found that it is the property owner or manager’s responsibility to “keep the hallways, passageways, and stairways reasonably well-lighted and free of obstructions or hazards.” Dim lighting or missing light bulbs can lead to more serious injuries, as the victim cannot see well enough to brace him or herself for the fall.
Negligence of the Property Owner
In a civil lawsuit, negligence is an important factor for determining if someone is liable for another person’s injuries or death.
When it comes to a stair fall, it is important to establish whether or not the property owner knew about unsafe conditions, or reasonably should have known about them. For example, if someone notifies a property owner or property manager that a step is broken, and the owner or manager fails to repair it within a reasonable amount of time, that inaction can be negligence.
On the other hand, if a jury decides that the property owner could not have reasonably known about a danger on a stairway, the owner may not be held liable for accidents on the stairway. It’s very important to build your personal injury case with the help of a lawyer, who can perform a thorough investigation and find out if other people had problems with these stairs before.
Injured in a Fall? Call Us Today
Falls down stairs are painful and incredibly dangerous: hundreds of people in the U.S. die every year from these falls, and thousands more are injured. If you or a loved one has been injured in a fall on someone else’s property, call the Santa Barbara slip-and-fall lawyers at NordstrandBlack PC at (805) 962-2022. We can sit down with you in a free consultation and discuss your legal options for compensation.