Falling on Stairs – Watch Where You’re Going, Right??
Walking up and down stairs is common in daily routines. But when an individual trips or falls on a step or a flight of stairs and injuries occur, it may be hard to determine if the property owner is liable. Following such a fall a qualified attorney who practices trip and falls on stairs in Texas can be a valuable means of securing the financial compensation that is warranted in such a situation.
Not all cases have merit. The point of this blog post is not to proclaim that if anyone is ever injured on stairs then the property owner or manager is liable. In fact, many times the stairs are well maintained, illuminated, and are uniform in shape and size. Obvious defects such as unstable steps, lack of or corroded rails, or improper lighting can easily demonstrate that the property owner was negligent. So what happens when stairs appear well maintained and solid with no obvious visual defects? The individuals still tripped and fell on the stairs so should that individual have just paid more attention? Is the property owner completely absolved of all liability? Not necessarily!!
Most property with stairs and is open to the public is regulated by city codes and ordinances. This is especially true in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and throughout major cities in Texas. Such codes or ordinances usually adopt the International Building Code (IBC) standards for how steps or stairs shall be built and maintained. The IBC identifies minimum requirements for the height from one step to the next – called risers. In fact, the IBC sets out standards for uniformity for risers throughout the staircase or set of steps. The IBC also addresses how deep a step should be and the rails on the stairs. Be warned though, not all buildings and structures are regulated by the IBC, or a different version of the IBC may apply. This depends on variables such as when the date the building was erected, the type of structure, and whether the city or municipality has adopted such standards.
If a person is injured on stairs that violate a city code or ordinance, the injured victim may have a claim against the property owner for negligence per se. This Texas legal doctrine pins a landowner with automatic liability for violation of a safety law that led to the injury of another. Such claims are much easier to pursue than a run of the mill negligence claim. The code that is violated can be quite stringent. For example, some laws require that a step does not have a greater height than ¾” from any other step in the stairs.
Many nuances exist in premises liability cases involving stairs. A landowner will likely push 100% of the blame on the person who fell and argue that nothing is wrong with the stairs. A well-qualified personal injury attorney who has experience handling such property cases should be retained if the injured person needs to explore his or her options regarding a trip and fall on the stairs. Consultations are usually free and cases are handled on a contingency fee basis.