Our Experienced Elevator Accident Attorneys Explain Some Important Things You Need To Know If You Were Involved In An Elevator Accident
Elevators are very common and usually safe. Most of the time, the trip is uneventful; we arrive at our floor safely and quickly. However, when an elevator is not properly maintained, it can be dangerous. Here are some important things you need to know if you were involved in an elevator accident.
How Do You Prove (and Win) An Elevator Accident Case?
To prove an elevator accident case, you must show that the elevator was defective, and that the defect caused your injury. There is no need to prove a qualifying injury, like in a motor vehicle accident case. Instead, the extent of your injury does not affect your ability to bring a claim. To prove liability in an elevator accident case, you must establish why the elevator malfunctioned. To do this, you will need an elevator expert who can review the facts of the case, conduct an inspection of the equipment, and offer an opinion about why the elevator malfunctioned. Without an elevator expert, it is nearly impossible to prove an elevator accident case.
Most elevators are not maintained directly by building owners. In fact, elevator maintenance is usually performed, under the terms of a written agreement, by an outside company that specializes in the maintenance and repair of this type of equipment. As a result, it is important to identify both the building owner as well as the elevator maintenance company contracted to maintain the equipment.
To prove an elevator accident case, there is some documentary evidence that is important. Specifically:
- A copy of the contract between the elevator maintenance company and the building owner;
- All relevant work records for the malfunctioning elevator, including the names of the workers, all invoices for payments, inspection and service reports, and records of any upgrades made to the elevator;
- Records of all testing, with the names of who conducted the testing; and
- Copies of all correspondence between the elevator maintenance company and the building owner.
In addition, video from surveillance cameras mounted inside the elevator can be critical to proving your case. While a defendant building owner will always resist producing this type of evidence, the judge in your case can direct that the video be turned over.
Comparative negligence is usually not issue in an elevator accident because the user has no control over the elevator, other than pressing a button. As a result, a defendant usually cannot legitimately blame the user’s conduct for the accident.
What Causes An Elevator To Malfunction?
Elevators are complicated mechanical devices that must be regularly inspected and maintained. In fact, an elevator can fail for any number of mechanical or electrical reasons, including problems with sensors, relays, regulators, speed switches, power supplies, and so on. Regardless of the cause, however, elevators usually malfunction because of a lack of proper maintenance. When an elevator is not properly maintained, there are many ways a user can be hurt. For example, common cases include:
- An elevator misleveling accident where the elevator fails to level with the floor when the doors open causing a tripping hazard;
- Elevator doors closing on a body part when the door closes and does not re-open, trapping a limb or other body part;
- Elevator doors closing too quickly and unexpectedly;
- Sudden acceleration, deceleration or stopping of the elevator causing a falling hazard and crushing gravitational forces;
- Swaying elevator striking the walls of the elevator shaft causing a user to fall;
- Being trapped in an elevator.
What Obligation Does An Owner Have To Maintain an Elevator?
Elevators in New York City are under the jurisdiction of New York’s Department of Buildings (DOB). The DOB is involved in the inspection of equipment, investigation of certain accidents, and the issuance of penalties for violations of the Building Code. The DOB also handles the regulation of escalators as well as moving walkways. Elevators must be tested twice per year by a contracted inspection agency for the DOB. These twice a year tests include three category tests. The first is Category One, a no-load safety test performed once per year. The second is Category Three, which is only performed on water-hydraulic elevators every three years. The Category Five test is a safety test performed with a specific load and speed every five years. If an elevator passes these tests, the DOB considers it safe to operate.
However, even if the DOB concludes that the elevator is safe to operate, the law still requires that building owners have a maintenance contract with an approved maintenance company to perform “work, maintenance and replacement” of the device. If a building owner does not, there are serious consequences including civil penalties and potentially criminal prosecution, if an owner fails to address a DOB violation.
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