A Tumble Down The Steps Can Change—and Shorten—the Life of an Elderly Adult

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Everyone has heard a story about someone falling downs the stairs and getting severely injured or killed. Sadly, such stories are not uncommon—especially among the elderly, who are more prone to fall and less apt to fully recover. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls are the leading cause of injury and death among adults aged 65 or older. The fact that death rates from falls among the elderly have risen sharply in the past decade attests to the fact that too little attention is paid by the property owner to ensuring the safety of stairs on their premises.

Premises Liability of Poorly Maintained Stairways

A stairway system has many basic components: risers, treads, stringers, handrails, newel posts, balustrades—and, of course, lighting. If a stairway is poorly maintained and/or improperly constructed, it is generally only a matter of time before a slip and fall or premises liability accident occurs. Just a small deviation in the measurement of stairway width or riser depth can have disastrous consequences. When a person walks on a stairway or even a ramp, he or she maintains an unconscious expectation as to the pattern, height, and depth of each stair. The slightest irregularity can lead to an unexpected fall.

The construction and placement of a stairway are expected to adhere to building code requirements, such as those established by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) regarding safe walking surfaces. Yet this is not always the case.

It is the responsibility of an owner or operator of real estate property to exercise the duty to maintain stairs and steps in a reasonably safe condition, so as to prevent harm. Similarly, a business owner has a duty to business invitees or customers who patronize a store or business. If a stairway is maintained in a negligent or hazardous condition, a property owner is liable for any accidents that take place on his or her property—and such accidents, owing to their seriousness, are costly.

A fall by an elderly person can often lead to a fractured hip or limbs, with potentially fatal consequences. According to the CDC, those who survive such injuries are likely to have trouble getting around and living independently—and, in fact, may end up dying prematurely. Even those who fall and are not injured may develop a fear of falling that leads to decreased mobility and physical activity, which can further increase their risk of falling.

Not long ago, I had the unfortunate experience of watching a close family member suffer after sliding down a set of defective steps and fracturing her hip. Her fall precipitated a rapid decline in health and ultimately led to her death. As a slip and fall attorney, I have investigated many similar cases of elderly adults who suffered grievous injuries as a result of operator and owner negligence with respect to defective staircases.

The Reiff Law Firm’s

Personal Injury Attorneys Have the Experience to Handle your Slip and Fall Case

The slip and fall and premises liability attorneys at The Reiff Law Firm have been recognized by their peers as having the highest possible rating in both legal abilities and ethical standards. They are consistently recognized as Pennsylvania Super Lawyers and are members of the National Trial Lawyers Top 100 Trial Attorneys. They have the knowledge, skill, and compassion to give victims of stair-related accidents the legal support they need and deserve.

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