Escalator and Elevator Accidents Lawyer in New York City

Escalator and Elevator Accidents Lawyer in New York City

Given the number of skyscrapers and other high-rise buildings in New York, elevators and escalators are a common sight. According to estimates, the average elevator carries 20,000 passengers per year, and the typical rider uses an elevator four times per day. With that much usage, the occasional accident is bound to happen.

Can you sue the owner if you’ve been hurt in an elevator or escalator accident? Yes, with the help of a New York elevator accident lawyer.

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Elevator and Escalator Accidents Are More Common Than You Might Think

Ages ago, elevators were ramshackle machines with very few safety features. Times certainly have changed, and today’s elevators and escalators are safer than ever. However, accidents remain surprisingly common.

According to statistics, elevator and escalator accidents injure 17,000 and kill 30 riders every year. In 2023, New York’s Department of Buildings (DOB) Elevator Unit responded to about 100 incidents, injuring at least one person.

It’s easy to find news stories about elevator and escalator catastrophes. In May 2024, a 71-year-old worker fell to his death after tumbling down an open elevator shaft. And, in Hoboken, NJ, a family decided to take legal action after their five-year-old daughter’s arm became stuck in an elevator door.

Where Do Elevator and Escalator Accidents Happen?

Elevator and escalator accidents can happen anywhere these machines operate. Common accident sites include:

  • Office buildings: Virtually all high-rise office buildings have an elevator to ferry workers between floors.
  • Subway stations: Escalators abound in New York City’s subway stations. Thousands of travelers ride these escalators every day.
  • Airports: If you’ve ever traveled through LaGuardia or JFK Airport, you’ve probably seen travelers packed like sardines on escalators.
  • Shopping malls: When you head out for a day of retail therapy at Hudson Yards or Brookfield Place, you certainly don’t want to lug those heavy bags up and down the stairs. Elevators and escalators make the trip easier but also put you at risk of an accident.

Causes of Escalator and Elevator Accidents

Elevators and escalators are normally very safe. They must undergo regular inspections to verify that all parts are working correctly. Unfortunately, inspections don’t always catch every little problem.

Causes of escalator and elevator accidents include:

  • Lack of maintenance: Elevators and escalators require regular maintenance, but if workers don’t do a thorough job, mechanical problems can slip through the cracks.
  • Entrapment hazards: Even a perfectly functioning elevator or escalator can cause injuries if someone becomes trapped between platforms or doors.
  • Lack of warning signs: As tough as elevators are, they can’t carry unlimited weight. The car’s supports can snap if passengers exceed the weight limit from a lack of capacity warning signs.
  • Slippery steps: Elevator and escalator riders commonly spill drinks and track mud in cars and on stairs. If workers don’t promptly clean spills, slip-and-fall accidents can occur.

Sometimes, escalators and elevators fail without warning despite regular inspections and maintenance. That’s what happened at a mine in South Africa. The accident happened when the car suddenly reversed direction, and the emergency protocol failed to stop the descent immediately. The accident caused 75 injuries and 11 deaths.

Types of Elevator Accident Injuries

Elevator and escalator accidents can cause terrible injuries for victims. Crush injuries are common when victims become trapped between elevator doors. If an escalator comes to a sudden stop, riders can go tumbling down the steps, resulting in broken bones and head injuries.

Electrocutions and burns may occur if victims come into contact with exposed electrical wires. In many cases, such exposure is fatal.

Can You Sue a Property Owner for an Escalator Accident?

So, you’ve been hurt in an elevator or escalator accident, and now you’re wondering whether you can sue the building owner. With the help of an elevator accident lawyer, yes.

To win your case, your elevator injury attorney must prove the property owner acted negligently. The four elements of negligence are as follows:

  1. The property owner owed you a duty of care. This means they were obligated to keep the elevator or escalator in good working condition.
  2. The owner was (or should have been) aware of a hazard but failed to correct it. This is called breach of duty. For example, suppose the owner knew their elevator had been stopping and starting suddenly yet continued to allow passengers to ride in it. 
  3. Because of the breach of duty, you suffered injuries in an elevator or escalator accident.
  4. The elevator or escalator accident caused damages for which a court can compensate you.

Evidence Needed To Win Your Case

You’ll need strong evidence to win your elevator or escalator accident case. Evidence to gather includes:

  • Witness statements: There were likely multiple witnesses if your accident happened in a busy mall or airport. After the accident, talk to as many as possible and ask for their statements. Your escalator injury attorney will use these statements to build your case.
  • Video footage: It’s possible a security camera caught your accident on video. If so, your elevator malfunction lawyer can request the footage from the owner.
  • Previous inspection results: The elevator’s or escalator’s previous inspection results may yield clues as to how the accident happened.
  • Repair recommendations: Accidents can happen if the property owner chooses to ignore repair recommendations. Your lawyer will request a list of repair recommendations for the five years before the accident.

Can You Sue Your Employer for an Elevator or Escalator Accident?

First, the bad news: You typically cannot sue your employer for an elevator or escalator accident that happened at work. Instead, you can claim workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ compensation will pay for your lost wages and accident-related medical bills.

Now, the good news: If a third party had something to do with the accident, you may file a lawsuit against them. This is likely the case because many employers don’t repair or maintain their own elevators and escalators. They have a maintenance company that handles the work for them.

For instance, if the maintenance company failed to fix something it should have, you could make a claim against it.

Contact an Elevator Accident Lawyer in New York

If you would like a lawyer to help you demonstrate proven negligence in premises liability, contact Ross & Hill today at (718) 855-2324 for a free consultation.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many floors you can fall and survive in an elevator accident depends on many factors, including the elevator’s speed and your position in the car (standing or sitting). The farthest anyone has ever fallen in an elevator and survived is 75 stories (over 1,000 feet).

Elevators are generally safer than stairs. From 1990 through 2012, nearly 25 million people were treated in emergency rooms for stair-related injuries.

You can sue for being trapped in an elevator if you suffered physical injuries due to the entrapment. You can also sue if you suffered emotional distress. Examples of emotional distress include anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

You may be able to sue the property owner for an elevator accident. You could sue the elevator company if the property owner doesn’t own the elevator. The maintenance company may also be liable. If you’re unsure who to hold accountable for your accident, contact an elevator accident lawyer to learn more about your rights and recourse for legal action.

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