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Who’s Liable For a Slip and Fall on Stairs Accident?

Just about everyone has either fallen down the stairs or experienced a horrible second or two when they missed a step and thought they were going to fall downstairs. It truly is a frightening moment that your body reacts to before you can form a logical thought and realize what has happened. Even in the times when you didn’t fall, you probably felt that rush of fight-or-flight adrenaline and the panicked thumping of your heart for the next few minutes. 

Unfortunately, for many people, slips and falls on the stairs are more than brief heart-in-throat moments; an average of 1,076,558 people each year are injured badly enough to have to be treated in emergency rooms after stair-related falls. Even worse, an average of 12,000 people die each year after falling on stairs. 

Obviously, there are many reasons why you might incur a staircase injury. You may be distracted and not paying attention. You may lose balance on your shoes or trip over a pile of laundry that you meant to bring upstairs. You may feel dizzy, or your ankle may roll at an inopportune moment.

But what if you are not at your own home and you were injured as a result of someone else’s negligence? You do have the right to recovery through Indiana’s premises liability law

Before we discuss liability, let’s look at some of the common reasons people slip and fall on stairs:

  • Loose carpets, rugs, or stair runners
    • Even one protruding corner or frayed segment of carpet can be catastrophic if you catch your foot and trip.
  • Loose or missing handrails
    • The lack of handrails is a building code violation. According to Indiana Code R311.7.8, “Handrails shall be provided on not less than one side of each flight of stairs with four or more risers.”
  • Spilled substances that make the stairs slippery
  • Ice or snow (or melted ice and snow) on outside steps
  • Highly polished or waxed floors that make it easy to slip
  • Incorrect dimensions for the rise or tread of the stairs themselves
    • We ascend and descend so many flights of stairs in our day-to-day lives that we don’t consciously have to think about how high to lift or lower our feet. Stairs that aren’t uniform are dangerous because our inner auto-pilot is thrown off when we encounter something out of the ordinary. 
    • Indiana requires that the riser (the vertical part of the stair that goes up between the treads, or parts you step on) should be “not more than 81/4 inches (210 mm).”
  • Insufficient lighting
    • It’s easy to miss a step if you can’t see it.
  • Objects placed where they don’t belong or where they are easy to trip over

Who Is liable?

In Indiana, the property owner is responsible for your fall if certain conditions are met:

You were legally on the property. This includes places where you were invited (such as the house of a friend) or considered to be an invitee (such as a place of business). 

The slip or fall occurred because of unsafe conditions. For example, if you simply lost your balance because you were talking, texting, or feeling ill, the state of the stairs didn’t cause your fall and injuries, but if you tripped over a loose board, the unsafe conditions did cause the accident.

You can begin by filing a claim with the relevant insurance company. Although it is awkward to feel as if you are demanding money from your friend after being injured at his house, it isn’t personal. You would be filing a third-party claim against your friend’s homeowner’s insurance company.

In a rented house or apartment, the claim would be against your friend’s rental insurance policy. If you fall in a common area of an apartment building, the claim would be against the insurance company of the property owner.

If you fall in a place of business, your claim would be filed with that company’s commercial property insurance company. 

In some cases, that may be the end of it. You receive the appropriate compensation, and you are able to pay your medical bills as well as any other expenses resulting from the accident. Unfortunately, as you probably have already surmised, that doesn’t always happen. Insurance companies are in business to make a profit, and their goal is to pay the least amount possible. They may even attempt to claim that the accident was your fault.

This is where an experienced slip-and-fall liability attorney can work to make sure that you are adequately compensated. If you are not satisfied with the settlement that is offered, your attorney can file a lawsuit on your behalf. 

Indiana premises liability law requires that in a lawsuit, you and your slip and fall attorney prove at least one of these is true:

  1. The owner of the property caused the issue.
  2. The owner of the property knew about the problem but didn’t take care of it.
  3. The owner of the property should have reasonably known about the problem.

All landowners and property owners have a duty to reasonably prevent injuries on their property. Our team at Crossen Law Firm can work to help you gather the evidence needed to prove that a property owner failed in his or her duty of care and must compensate you for your losses.

If building codes were violated, you may be able to also hold the builder, designer, construction company, and/or architect liable.

Facts about injuries after a slip and fall on stairs accident:

  • The incidence of traumatic brain injury increases with the height (number of stairs) fallen.
  • According to the NIH, stair falls often cause spine, pelvic, or head injuries.
  • Other typical injuries include bone fractures, soft tissue injuries, neck injuries, and injuries to internal organs.
  • Those most likely to be injured in staircase accidents are elderly people and children.
  • More females (62.4%) are injured in these types of accidents than males.
  • Stairs are particularly dangerous for pregnant women (possibly because their center of gravity shifts). Over 39% of falls documented by pregnant women are stair-related.

Any type of injury is traumatic, and you need to be able to focus on your recovery. The personal injury lawyers at Crossen Law Firm will work aggressively to recover fair compensation for your

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Lost wages due to the inability to work
  • Mental anguish
  • Pain and suffering

Our experienced personal injury attorneys at Crossen Law Firm have decades of experience handling all kinds of personal injury claims, including slip and fall liability.

To schedule a free consultation with one of our reputable Indianapolis personal injury lawyers, dial (317) 401-8626 now or contact us online.