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3 issues with stairs that can lead to premises liability claims

On Behalf of | Apr 3, 2024 | Premises Liability |

Stairs are a necessary component of modern multi-floor buildings. They allow people to travel from one area to another efficiently. However, stairs are also dangerous. Shifting one’s center of gravity while going up or down stairs can potentially lead to a fall.

Certain parties, including children and older adults, may be more likely to fall. There are also certain issues with the stairs themselves that could increase the likelihood of someone falling and getting hurt. Businesses that have stairs accessible to workers or visitors and landlords with multi-story buildings have to maintain stairwells carefully or run the risk of incurring premises liability.

Someone injured due to negligent property maintenance could file an insurance claim or civil lawsuit over the injuries they incurred after falling down the stairs at a building. For example, the following maintenance issues may warrant a claim after a fall downstairs.

A missing or loose handrail

People can potentially lose their balance with very little warning, and a handrail might be the only thing stopping them from falling all the way to the bottom of the stairs. If a stairwell does not include a handrail or if it comes loose when someone grabs it for support, the outcome of a fall could be far worse because of those unsafe conditions. Property owners need to ensure that they have handrails installed in all stairwells and that they are capable of bearing weight if someone uses them.

Inadequate lighting

Having enough light to clearly see the entire length of the stairs is important for safety. Best practices for stair maintenance include having lights at the top and bottom landings of every staircase. Landlords need to ensure that those lights remain on consistently or invest in motion-activated systems to provide lighting on demand when the stairs are in use. Burned-out light bulbs and dark stairways could cause preventable falls.

Issues with flooring

Damaged flooring on the landings or stairs themselves can be a major hazard for visitors, tenants and employees. In general, businesses and landlords may need to invest in regular cleaning to ensure that dirt or water tracked into the stairwell doesn’t create a slipping hazard. They also need to ensure that the floors remain relatively clean and in good repair. Peeling linoleum, loose laminate flooring or torn carpeting could trip someone or slide under their feet, leading to a fall and potentially severe injuries.

Premises liability claims can result in insurance compensation in many cases. A fall downstairs could cause broken bones or brain injuries. Holding a property owner accountable for inadequate stair maintenance is often a reasonable reaction to a preventable fall.