Some of the most serious injuries occur in falls down stairs. When these types of accidents occur one must consider the design of the stairs to determine whether the stairs in question are safe and whether the stairs met the applicable building codes and standards. Some of the factors we examine in evaluating the merits of a defective stair case or premises liability are:
Inadequate Stair Surfaces
Stair surfaces should provide firm footing and adequate slip resistance so as not to contribute to slipping or tripping. Surface materials such as carpet with distinct patterns can obscure the leading edges of the treads and contribute to a misstep.
Uniform Risers and Treads. Stair risers and treads should be uniform. These dimensions are important because they allow the user to establish a uniform gait when using the stairs. Irregular distances can lead the loss of balance, stumbles and falls.
Projecting Leading Edges
The nosings on stairs with short treads can present a trip hazard to people descending the stairs since the effective width of the tread is reduced and heels may catch on the nosings. Nosings may also present a trip hazard to people ascending the stairs if the person’s foot is dragged up the riser, the users toe may catch on the nosing and result in a misstep.
Shape of Leading Edge. Slightly rounded leading edges allow for light modeling for better visibility and will reduce injuries if one should fall against the tread. The leading edge should not have such a large radius that there is a tendency to slide over the edge.
Distance between Landings
Reducing or limiting the distance between landings provides for more resting places and reduces the distance one might fall.
The space between handrails, their strength of fasteners, height, ability to grasp, handrail continuity, extensions beyond the top and bottom risers, and visibility all affect safety.
Uniform light levels over the whole stair and low glare light sources improve visibility and reduce the likelihood of missteps.
Stair accidents also occur when the user’s attention is distracted by a change in view.
Insurance companies and their lawyers will always attempt to blame the victim for these falls. Any physical disability of the victim will be examined as a possible cause. Did the person have any perception or sensory difficulties? The insurance company will examine the victim’s footwear, high heels or long skirts that could have been a stumbling hazard. If the victim was carry large heavy items or rushing, these factors will be used to blame the victim.