Georgia Lawyers For Damaged Railings Injuries And Defective Railings Injuries

For most people, stairs and elevated walkways are such a normal part of everyday life that we don’t perceive them as dangerous. We don’t think about the rigid, bone-breaking corners that make up a staircase, or about the sheer drop on the other side of a hotel’s exterior corridor, as long as we have our balance.

Unfortunately, the danger is quite real. In fact, the Pan American Health Organization lists accidental falls as the 20th leading cause of death in the U.S, accounting for as many fatalities as brain cancer and murder put together. Stairways in particular are one of the most common and dangerous places to suffer a fall. A review of stairway-related falls conducted by the Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety found that stairs may be a contributing factor in as many as 36% of fall injuries.

After a lifetime of using stairs and elevated walkways without incident, people are often embarrassed about having an accident. They assume they must be at fault, because walking around a public building, or even their own apartment complex, seems like such an easy, everyday task.
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Many survivors of falls are reluctant to come forward, not wanting to “cause a fuss” or draw attention to what they view as their own clumsiness.

What many don’t realize is that building safety codes exist for the exact purpose of making these architectural features as safe as possible. When you use stairs or walkways, you’re trusting the building owner to follow these safety rules, just as you’re trusting other drivers to follow the safety rules of the road every time you get in a car. Suffering a fall due to a rusted, rotted, or improperly installed handrail is no more your fault than being hit by a speeding car.

Property Owners Have a Duty to Install and Inspect Their Railings

Building safety codes do vary on the state and local level, but for the most part, local regulations simply add even stricter addendums to the basic rules set forth in the International Building Code. Below are some of the standard requirements for safety railings:

  • All open-sided walkways and stairways where the drop-off is at least 30” must have guardrails.
  • All non-spiral, non-residential stairways that are at least 30” tall must have handrails on both sides.
  • Spiral staircases must have railings along the outer edge.
  • Guardrails next to a drop-off must be at least 42” high.
  • Handrails where there is no drop-off must be 34-38” high.
  • Railings must offer a continuous, easy-to-grasp surface.
  • Railings must be able to support a minimum of 200 lbs.

In areas designed for employee traffic rather than the general public, additional requirements are laid out by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). For example, OSHA specifically requires railings used by workers to be free of potential puncture or snagging hazards.

The railing strength requirement of 200 lbs. might not sound like a lot, but keep in mind that even when you’re off balance, part of your weight is still on your feet. If a railing gives way when you use it for its intended purpose — saving you from death or injury — the problem is with the railing, not you.

Ultimately, these rules exist to protect everyone, and building owners have a legal and ethical obligation to keep visitors, residents, and workers safe by following them.

Common Injuries Caused by Defective Rails

As trivial as many people imagine falls to be, the injuries suffered as a result are anything but. In addition to the many accidental deaths caused by falling, the National Safety Council estimates that 31% of all preventable non-fatal injuries are fall-related.

Common injuries from accidental falls include:

  • Hip fractures
  • Shoulder fractures
  • Leg and ankle fractures
  • Spinal cord damage
  • Traumatic brain injury

These are not rare, freak occurrences. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke estimates that 12,000 spinal cord injuries occur every year in the U.S alone, and more than 25% of them are the result of falls — a percentage only topped by car accidents.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recognizes falls as the leading cause of traumatic brain injuries, even ahead of car accidents, and when stairs are involved in a fall, the likelihood of injury is even higher. A study by Mitchel et al. at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh found that falling down stairs results in more foot, ankle, and shoulder blade fractures than any other cause.

Many fall-related injuries will require a long, painful, and costly recovery process, and others will never heal completely. Symptoms of spinal cord injuries can range from chronic nerve pain to total paralysis below the damaged area. Survivors of traumatic brain injuries may suffer from a wide range of intellectual, emotional, and physical impairments, which can make living a normal life difficult or impossible.

Complex fractures often require surgery to add pins, screws, or replacement joints, followed by months of physical therapy.

Falls are a serious health risk and deserve to be treated as such, ideally through prevention measures like proper railing maintenance. Once these measures have already been neglected, however, responsibility for the consequences must be acknowledged.

What to Do After a Fall

If you’ve experienced a fall due to a faulty or missing handrail, seek medical attention immediately. This not only improves your chances of recovering from any injuries, but establishes a formal record of those injuries. It can also be helpful to take pictures of where the fall occurred.

After your health, your next priority should be reaching out to an expert, like our team of experienced professionals at the Stoddard Firm. Without knowledgeable help on your side, you may be tempted to accept a quick settlement from the property owner or insurance company, which is unlikely to come close to matching your recovery expenses.

Instead, give us a call at 678-RESULT to schedule a free consultation on how we can help you get back on your feet.

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