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.
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.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Do I have a case?
If you’ve been injured because of someone else’s negligence, you could have a personal injury case. Every situation is different, so there’s no way to know if you have a case without consulting with a qualified personal injury attorney. If you are badly injured or a loved one has died, we are happy to speak with you and investigate the matter at no charge.
How do I pick the right attorney?
You’ll want to look for several qualities when choosing who will represent you. Your attorney should meet with you instead of sending an investigator, and he/she should be available throughout the process instead of having you consistently talk to a legal assistant. Your attorney should have a low number of cases so he/she can devote significant time to you and your case. Your attorney should have experience handling cases with facts similar to yours, and your attorney should have a proven track record with similar claims. Your attorney should also be able to devote significant money to your case so that he/she can hire experts, travel the country finding witnesses, and depose whomever is necessary to achieve justice. It’s also important to make sure your attorney is the right fit on a personal level, which is why you should take advantage of a free consultation.
What do I need to bring with me to the consultation?
For your free consultation, bring all relevant documents that you’ve collected regarding your case. If there are police reports, bills or correspondence from insurance companies, you’ll want to bring those items to the consultation so an attorney can learn as much about your case as possible.
How much time do I have to file a lawsuit?
There is a time limit on how long a person has after an injury to begin a lawsuit. This window is called a statute of limitations. For most personal injury cases in Georgia, the statute of limitations is two years from the time the injury was suffered. However, there are exceptions and subtleties that might change the amount of time you are afforded. Sometimes the period can be as short as 6 months, and other times it can be much longer than two years. Determining the statute of limitations requires a detailed analysis of the facts of your case.
What do your services cost?
A consultation with the Stoddard Law Firm is free. In most circumstances, we earn no fee unless we win your case. If your claim is successful, we take a percentage of the recovered amount.
What has to be proven in a premises liability case?
A successful premises liability claim must show that a hazardous condition exposed you to an unreasonable risk of harm and that the property owner failed to exercise reasonable care to maintain a safe premises. Common examples include slippery floors, unstable structures, broken handrails, stairs not built to code, scalding apartment shower water, natural gas explosions, electrical shocks, and improperly fenced swimming pools. There are several factors that can make or break a case, which is why it’s important to work with an experienced lawyer who can thoroughly investigate the situation.
How is negligent security different from premises liability?
Negligent security is a type of premises liability. These claims arise when a person is assaulted on someone else’s property by a third-party. Owners of apartment complexes, hotels, gas stations, and other retail establishments can sometimes be held liable if their inadequate security practices contributed to the attack. Such practices include failure to warn of prior crimes, inadequate lighting, broken access gates, broken locks, and failure to provide security guards.
How can an attorney help me?
Whether your injury was mild or severe, proving fault for premises liability can be a complex process. The standard of care owed by the property owner is made up of many factors and, in some cases, the hazardous conditions may no longer exist. A skilled premises liability attorney knows how to gather and preserve the necessary evidence – and how to defend you against accusations that you should have known about the dangerous condition.
How do I choose an attorney?
There are a lot of lawyers out there, so it’s important to select one that you feel comfortable with and who inspires confidence. Choose one who has experience with the type of claim you have, is qualified, has a good reputation in the legal community, and seems dedicated to helping you win your case.
How do I pay an attorney?
The Stoddard Firm handles litigation on a contingency basis. This means we accept a percentage of the amount we recover for you. If your claim does not have a successful resolution, we do not collect any fee. We are also pleased to offer free consultations.