Moving between floors while you’re out and about shouldn’t be a frightening proposition, but there’s an element of risk no matter what method you use. Escalators often seem like the least threatening option, lacking the claustrophobia of elevators and most of the slip/trip potential of climbing stairs. Even so, they have serious safety drawbacks of their own, especially when poorly maintained.
According to a survey conducted by the Center for Construction Research and Training, escalators seriously injure about 6,800 people per year in the U.S, ultimately killing three. To make matters worse, the Atlanta area has several hotspots of escalator danger.
Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport
With the sheer volume of traffic that passes through Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, it stands to reason that some accidents will happen on the premises. However, that same volume also makes patterns more obvious and, in the case of escalator injuries, disheartening.
In one particularly dark stretch of 2008, three children were injured on the escalators over the course of just two months. The airport’s immediate response was to blame the children’s shoes, adding signs and a message that played every five minutes over the PA system, warning parents about “shoe accidents.”
It’s true that the injured children were wearing Crocs and similar soft resin shoes, which get caught more easily in escalators than other kinds of footwear. Crocs ended up becoming more infamous than the escalators themselves for the injuries, with the company even paying part of the settlement for one of the ensuing lawsuits.
It should be noted, however, that in their efforts to keep up with traffic, the Hartsfield-Jackson airport has definitively struggled to keep up with maintenance. Just two months after celebrating the upgrade of two new escalators in 2013, the hub saw another escalator catch fire, injuring two firefighters.
Escalators remain the primary and most efficient conveyance available to handle foot traffic at Hartsfield-Jackson. They’re designed to be used by the general public, and the general public can be expected to pass through in a variety of street clothes on the way to their destinations. Upkeep of these mechanized thoroughfares can’t be dismissed as a factor in the frequency of accidents.
The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA)
Sadly, avoiding the airport and sticking to local travel offers no protection. The MARTA public transit system alone has a well-earned reputation for the danger of its escalators. The problem was most recently brought to the surface when a 3-year-old girl’s foot was crushed beyond repair by a MARTA escalator with an out-of-date inspection record.
The girl survived, but hers was far from the first such incident. The MARTA escalator systems were not only neglected but actively sabotaged by a mechanic in 2010. To their credit, MARTA immediately cut off access to the affected escalators for investigation and repair and ended their contract with the maintenance company.
Not so much to their credit, they then re-hired another maintenance company they’d blamed for a previous accident, in which an escalator lurched suddenly forward. Almost immediately after the switch back, the lurching accident repeated itself.
In spite of all this, not a dollar of the recently approved $2.5 billion MARTA expansion is specifically designated for improving safety.
Malls and Recreation
Of course, using public transportation isn’t the only time people encounter escalators. Escalators in privately owned public spaces can be just as hazardous, especially in times of economic upheaval.
While the MARTA system may not be spending enough of its recent budget boom on improving safety, many shopping malls are barely keeping their doors open at all. As these once-thriving malls slowly transition into ghost towns, there’s a long stretch of time where maintenance and upgrades fall by the wayside.
The conditions can be as dangerous for workers as for guests. In 2013, a repairman working on the fire sprinklers at Phipps Plaza got his foot wedged between the stairs of an escalator and was dragged to the top.
Other kinds of recreational facilities where escalators must handle heavier traffic can cause even more casualties when things go wrong. Also in 2013, a malfunctioning escalator at the Georgia Dome went into what a passenger described as a freefall right after a game, injuring at least eight.
How to Protect Yourself from Escalator Accidents
The National Elevator Industry, Inc. (NEII) offers some suggestions for staying safe on escalators:
- Check that the escalator is going in the desired direction before stepping on.
- Take extra care where you step if you wear bifocals.
- Face forward, holding the handrail.
- Hold small children tightly in your other arm.
- Alternatively, have children stand (not sit) near the middle of the escalator, holding both your hand and the handrail.
- If you are using a wheelchair, electric scooter, stroller, hand cart, luggage cart or similar item, use the elevator instead.
- Keep away from the sides and keep track of loose clothing.
- Wear close-toed, hard-soled shoes not made from rubbery materials.
- Reposition your hand slowly if the handrail moves at a different pace from the steps.
- Do not climb on the handrail.
- Step off and move away when you reach your destination, without hesitating or letting feet drag over the edge.
Of course, some of these tips are simple common sense, while others expect people to plan their entire days and wardrobes around what should be the simple and forgettable task of moving from one level to another. Most importantly, none of them will protect against large-scale escalator malfunctions caused by a lack of maintenance.
What to Do If You’ve Been Injured by an Escalator
Seek medical attention immediately. As well as helping you heal, this establishes a record of the incident. Once your immediate needs are met, contact a legal expert like those at the Stoddard Firm. We’re always available to discuss your options and how we can help you get the compensation you need and deserve. Give us a call at 678-RESULTS or reach out online for your free consultation.
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.