Elevator Accidents

Every day, millions of people use elevators to get to their office, home or to navigate many buildings with multiple floors. Most people take for granted that the elevator will function properly as part of their daily expectations and routine. When something goes wrong, however, the results can be catastrophic. Further complicating the area of elevator accident law are the detailed and voluminous elevator laws and codes which govern the installation, inspection and maintenance of elevators throughout the country.

Additionally, elevators have evolved from the early days of elevator installation and are now complex pieces of machinery involving a myriad of engineering disciplines. A thorough understanding of the evolution of elevators and the theories behind elevator safety devices is necessary to successfully litigate a claim involving an elevator accident. Numerous safety systems are in place in most elevators and an understanding of how they work is critical.  If an electric elevator is involved ANSI /ASME Standard A17.2.1 should be consulted. If a hydraulic elevator is involved ANSI/ASME Standard A17.2.2 should be consulted.  Due to the complexity of these cases, experts are usually employed to work with us in order to obtain the best results for our injured clients.

Often times, in larger buildings, the company that maintains and services the elevator has a contract with the owner and managing agent for the building to make sure that the elevators are maintained in a safe condition. These larger buildings will usually have a representative of an elevator company either on site or on call at all times. Many elevator accidents occur due to a failure to properly maintain and service the elevators by the on–site elevator company. For buildings without an on–site elevator company, laws were enacted to make sure that the building owner utilizes properly trained professionals to inspect, maintain and service the elevators on a regular basis. The failure to do so often leads to elevator accidents.

In Virginia, D.C. and Maryland the owner of an elevator is called a common carrier and, as such, has a duty to use the highest degree of practical care and foresight for the safety of its passengers.  All three jurisdictions have held that a carrier is not an insurer of its passengers’ safety; therefore, it is necessary to prove negligence in order to recover for your injuries.

During the course of litigating a case involving an elevator accident, there are multiple documents and other items that lawyers must obtain in order to investigate and eventually prove negligence:

1. Any security video from inside the elevator in question.
2. A copy of the contract with the defendant elevator company pursuant to which they provided maintenance for the elevators at the defendant building.
3. All work records for the subject elevator for a period of time prior to the accident.
4. All documents regarding all 2 year, 5 year and Local Law 10 testing, including a full load testing, done by the elevator company on the elevator in question.
5. All correspondence between the building owner and the elevator company for a period of time prior to the date of the accident.
6. All estimates relating to the elevator from any and all contractors or others.
7. Inspection reports regarding the subject elevator prepared by the elevator company for several years prior to the date of the accident.
8. The names of all elevator company employees who inspected the elevator for the several  year period prior to the date of the accident.
9. Repair recommendations and/or proposals with regard to the subject elevator submitted by the elevator company to the owner/managing agent of the building.
10. Service reports for the subject elevator prepared by the elevator company.
11. Invoices submitted by the elevator company to the building owner.
12. The names of any and all inspection agencies utilized by the elevator company or managing agent/building owner to inspect the elevator in question, together with the names of the companies’ insurance carriers.
13. A complete copy of all applicable insurance policies and excess insurance policies, including all self–insured retentions and any other form of insurance afforded defendants which was in effect on the date of the accident herein.
14. The elevator company maintenance log for the elevator involved in the accident.
15. All records of any upgrades made to the elevator involved in the accident.

Some of the types of elevator accident cases we are accepting involve:

  • Elevator free falls
  • Falls in elevator shaft
  • Sudden acceleration
  • Sudden deceleration
  • Overspeed conditions
  • Defective governors
  • Improper hoist cable maintenance
  • Interlock circuit bypass
  • Communication failure
  • Safety device failure
  • Mis–leveling
  • Door entrapment
  • Car entrapment

Additionally, millions of people ride escalators to transport them from floor to floor inside department stores, subways, train stations and other places. The majority of escalator accidents are caused by the improper servicing or installation of the escalator equipment which could have been detected by the performance of proper inspection, servicing and maintenance.

Unfortunately, a large percentage of people injured while riding an escalator are young children. Special precautions and laws were enacted to help prevent young children from being injured on an escalator.

Unfortunately, many of these safety devices are either not installed, or not installed improperly, or are inadequately maintained.

Similar rules apply for both escalators and elevators. The company that services, maintains, and inspects the elevator or escalator has a duty to ensure that it is operating properly and is free of conditions that might pose a hazard to persons using the elevator or escalator. Such companies can be held liable for injuries resulting from its negligence in inspecting, maintaining, and servicing the elevator or escalator. If the owner or operator fails to have the elevator or escalator regularly for dangerous condition, it can be held liable for injuries to or death of persons using the elevator or escalator.

In most of these cases the defendants are large, rich, self-insured, international corporations with lawyers who focus solely on defendant elevator/escalator injury cases.  You need an experienced lawyer to level the playing field.  Our attorneys have successfully taken on some of the largest corporations on behalf of our injured clients.