Whether you are on the job or just visiting a multiple-story building, you put your health and your life in the hands of another every time you step on an elevator. In the United States and Canada, more than 600,000 elevators move almost 600 million people each day. Because elevators are expensive to build and maintain, shortcuts are often taken that cause risk of serious injury or death to their occupants.
Defective design or, more commonly, improperly maintained or installed elevators are the most common subjects of elevator lawsuits. In most states, underscoring the importance of elevator safety, owners of elevators owe a heightened standard of care to their passengers.
In Maryland, the owner or operator of a passenger elevator is required to exercise the highest degree of care and diligence practicable under the circumstances, to guard against injuries to persons riding in such an elevator. Property owners who maintain an elevator are required to use reasonable care in order to maintain their elevators and to warn potential occupants of the hazards they know about or should have known about after a reasonable inspection.
Typically, an elevator injury lawsuit alleges defective design, neglect, faulty wiring, and lack of proper installation, maintenance, and/or upgrade of the elevator. There are two primary types of elevator accident lawsuits: passenger and freight.
Passenger Elevator Accidents
The most common elevator a majority of us see is the passenger elevator. Passenger elevators are required in public safety regulations to conform to ASME A17.1, which was first drafted almost 90 years ago. Elevators also typically must pass state inspections before they are operational. Many elevator accidents occur as the result of:
- Electrocution due to faulty wiring
- A malfunction of the pulley system caused the elevator to fall
- Lack of rope grippers to stop an elevator’s fall,
- Loose hanger track bolts and missing bolts on the elevator doors
- Improper leveling with elevator and hallway floors
Freight Elevator Accidents
The construction of freight elevators, designed only for the conveyance of freight, is sometimes different from the construction of passenger elevators. Like any elevator, a freight elevator must be properly built and maintained. But in spite of the fact that these elevators often carry people, freight elevators are not required to maintain the ASME A17.1 code requirements that passenger elevators must meet. This means as you would expect, a lot of corners sometimes get cut when building and maintaining freight elevators.
There are many different types of injuries that occur from improperly designed, inspected, or maintained elevators. Most common and not surprising are finger and hand injuries from closing doors. Many freight elevators are designed without an inside or outside pull strap to manually close the door.
The Four Typical Themes in Elevator Accidents
Lawsuits involving elevator accidents typically center on the following four themes:
- Maintenance Negligence: Elevator maintenance is crucial. Lawsuits frequently arise from improper or neglected maintenance routines. Regular inspections to identify issues, timely repairs of known defects, and adequate training for maintenance personnel are expected standards. Failure to meet these standards can lead to malfunctioning elevators and accidents.
- Negligent Design or Manufacturing: An elevator’s design and manufacturing process must adhere to strict safety standards. Any design flaws or manufacturing defects, particularly with critical safety features like brakes, doors, or control systems, can lead to catastrophic failures and are a common basis for legal claims.
- Failure to Warn: Property owners and service providers must warn about any known hazards associated with elevator use. This includes posting clear signage for weight limits or out-of-service notices. Landlords often get unbelievably lazy on warnings. A failure to communicate known dangers effectively can lead to accidents and a very viable elevator accident lawsuit.
- Premises Liability: The concept of premises liability extends to maintaining a safe environment, which encompasses elevators. Property owners and managers can be held liable if they fail to ensure that elevators are functioning safely, fail to train staff properly in the operation or emergency procedures, or if they don’t address potential security issues that could lead to accidents.
These themes point to a broader issue of responsibility by various parties to ensure elevator safety, from regular maintenance to clear communication about potential risks. When accidents occur, what our elevator accident lawyers must do is determine liability by examining these aspects to establish negligence and breach of duty of care.
Elevator Accident Verdicts & Settlements
$410,977 Verdict (Connecticut 2023): The plaintiff was riding in an elevator in his apartment complex when a piece or pieces of the building’s elevator ceiling suddenly fell and struck him in the face and head, causing him to fall down.
$25,000 Settlement (New York 2023): The plaintiff, a minor, allegedly fell and injured herself due to an excessively large gap between an elevator and a train platform. Injuries were relatively minor and included just scrapes and bruises making this more of a slip and fall case involving an elevator. The plaintiff claimed a host of injuries including facial lacerations which resulted in scarring, concussion, post-concussive syndrome, headaches, sprain/strain of the cervical and lumbar spine, bilateral tinnitus, hearing loss, corneal abrasion, punctate keratitis of the right eye, and impaired vision.
$23,600 Verdict (Florida 2023): The plaintiff claimed to suffer injuries including facial lacerations when the elevator she was using, located in her apartment building jolted a few times, causing the metal ceiling to collapse on top of her. The plaintiff contended that the defendant was negligent in failing to properly maintain the subject elevator, failing to place the elevator out of order, and failing to warn residents that the elevator was broken, resulting in her serious injuries.
$25,000 Settlement (Wisconsin 2022): The plaintiff was using an elevator when it allegedly malfunctioned causing the elevator to suddenly drop 7 floors. The plaintiff claimed that she suffered injuries as a result and sued the building owner and elevator maintenance company.
$1,277,733 Verdict (Maryland 2022): The plaintiff tripped and fell while exiting an elevator that failed to level properly at a parking garage suffering knee injuries which required extensive surgery. The plaintiff claimed another garage customer had tripped and fell exiting the same elevator prior to her incident. She asserted the defendants failed at that time to immediately shut down the elevator or prevent it from being used.
Contact Our Law Firm If You Believe You Have a Elevator Accident Lawsuit
If you or someone you love has suffered a catastrophic injury or death as the result of the use of a forklift you believe may have been defective, call our forklift product liability lawyer at 800-553-8082 or get a free consultation online.
We are based in Maryland, but our lawyers accept serious accident elevator cases around the country.