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Who is Responsible in An Elevator Accident?

Elevator closed after accident

Imagine riding in an elevator, and the elevator suddenly falls a couple floors. You fall to your feet and break your knees. Who is responsible?

According to the National Elevator Industry, there are about 900,000 functioning elevators in the United States. Each passenger goes up and down about four times a day. Elevators have become a common functionality in our everyday lives, however, unfortunately, there are still risks associated with using the elevator. About 31 people are killed every year by using an elevator. (United States Bureau of Labor Statistics) A large percentage of the deaths are made up of maintenance workers who fall through an elevator shaft. Although the number of fatalities seems very minimal, injuries caused by elevator accidents are more common.

Further, courts have used the term “elevator” broadly, using the term to describe escalators as well. There could be injuries sustained when riding the escalator when a scarf or necklace gets caught. If you or a loved one have been injured through use of an elevator, contact our elevator injury attorneys to file a personal injury lawsuit. Our experienced attorneys will work to determine who is at fault, and how much you are able to be compensated in damages from the defendants.

What To Do After An Elevator Accident

Oftentimes in the spur of the moment, many victims involved in an accident forget to document evidence, which could end up in a weak case for damages. Our attorneys at Heidari Group have some tips on what to do after an accident:

  1. After the accident, get the names and phone numbers of witnesses if possible.
  2. Contact the building owner or manager.
  3. Contact an elevator attorney to describe your case.
  4. Your attorney would then need to document evidence of the elevator (such as photographic evidence), along with any accident reports filed by police authorities.
    1. After gathering evidence, the attorney would then decide to purse a products liability case or a negligence case depending on who would be at fault.

Parties’ Liability

There are three major claims for an elevator accident that a plaintiff can choose to file. To better determine what type of lawsuit your case is, contact our elevator injury attorneys. Elevator liability could arise in three ways:

  1. Premises liability

Holds the landowner accountable for any injuries sustained from the elevator accident. First, the control the landowner has on the property must be proven. In California, landowners owe a duty to any “foreseeable plaintiffs.” This duty includes maintaining the property, inspections for any dangers, and to give warnings if there are any known dangers. If the elevator injuries were sustained as a result of the property owner’s failure to maintain the area, the property owner could be held liable.

  1. Products liability

If the elevator has a manufacturing defect that led to your injuries, the manufacturer and retailer can be held strictly liable. Strict liability imposes fault on the defendant, and defendant cannot raise any defenses that plaintiff was also contributorily negligent and caused his injuries. In California, a defect in the elevator holds everyone in the chain of sale liable.

If the elevator had a design defect, the manufacturer could strictly be held liable alone, since it was not under the control of the retailer.

  1. Negligence

In a negligence lawsuit, plaintiff must prove that defendant had a duty, the defendant breached that duty by failing to follow the standard of care, and that failure caused plaintiff’s damages. Under a negligence lawsuit, several other parties could be held liable. For example, the elevator maintenance company could be found liable if they fail to properly maintain and repair the elevator. The architect of the building could be held liable if the elevator design was improperly designed. The elevator engineer could be held liable if the elevator has been set up incorrectly. When it is difficult to prove who is at fault because of the lack of evidence, the plaintiff can choose to argue res ipsa loquitor, meaning that the evidence speaks for itself and the injuries would not have happened if there was no negligence involved by a party.

Oftentimes, an elevator injury lawsuit could end in a settlement. Defendants would want to settle rather than spend money on attorneys’ fees in court.

Can you Sue for being stuck in an elevator?

Being stuck in an elevator is more common than sustaining injuries. Being stuck in an elevator is more common in apartment complexes. However, simply being stuck does not always mean that you have a strong case against the apartment complex. For example, if it was a mere couple minutes and you did not sustain any physical damages, it will be difficult to prove negligence since it requires some sufficient type of injury. Further, it might be difficult to prove that the complex was negligent when they have taken every reasonable step to prevent it an elevator from stopping. There might be temporary emotional distress, however, it is unlikely it will rise to make an emotional distress claim. To better understand your damages and to see if you have a viable case, speak to our elevator accident attorneys at Heidari Law.

Common Elevator Problems

  1. The most common malfunction with an elevator is the pulley. The pulley which assists in bringing the elevator up and down could have a defect, which then drops the elevator down.
  2. The elevator wiring could be faulty, which could affect the buttons. The elevator would then stop at a floor, unable to move up or down.
  3. The elevator doors could be faulty, which could close up on a passenger as they are walking into it.

Common Injuries Sustained in Elevator Accidents

Elevators have a motor at the top the shaft that acts as a pulley to raise and lower the “box” where passengers stand in. Although this has taken years to master, elevators can still face defects when operating, and injuries are more serious since the elevator could drop down.

Common injuries associated with elevator accidents include:

  1. Broken bones, with the most common being the neck or elbow
  2. Internal bleeding from physical trauma
  3. Injury to the spinal cord
  4. Concussion

Damages Resulting from an Elevator Accident

Damages a plaintiff is able to receive include compensation for medical bills (hospitalization), lost wages, and pain and suffering. If a loved one is killed in an elevator accident, a wrongful death case could be filed against the defendant. Wrongful death is a claim brought by the survivors of the victim, and includes repayment for lost household income and loss of companionship.

Elevator accidents may seem a bit complicated when deciding who is liable and what type of personal injury case to pursue. Call our attorneys at Heidari Law Group to assist you in determining if you have a viable elevator accident case.


***Disclaimer: This blog is created by Heidari Law Group for educational purposes. This article provides a general understanding of the law. It does not provide specific advice. By using this site and reading through this blog, there is no attorney-client relationship created between you and any member of Heidari Law. Further, due to the constant change of the law, some parts of the information above may no longer be good law.

Sam Heidari

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