In the early evening of Saturday, February 9th, four-year old Helena Flores tragically fell from her fourth story apartment window. She had just celebrated her birthday that Tuesday. Helena’s mother says the window was slightly opened due to extremely hot radiators. Additionally, Helena was autistic and unaware of the danger related to open windows. She somehow found a way to reach the top of the window and fall through. Unfortunately, she died on impact. Despite window guards on the bottom, Helena reached the top of the window and eventually fell out.
Because of high, urban buildings, an issue in New York City is the injury or death of small children due to falling out of a window, like Helena. In 1976, NYC implemented the window guard rule (Section 131.15 of the New York City Health Code). Despite this rule, many landlords did not comply until 1987. New York City began filing criminal charges against landlords for refusing to or improperly installing window guards. Today, however, incidents caused by windows have dramatically decreased because of the use of window guards.
This rule requires the installation and maintenance of window safety devices, commonly known as window guards, for any apartment in which a child less than eleven years old lives. However, this rule only applies to apartment complexes composed of three or more units. Additionally, if a resident requests a window guard, the landlord must install one. Some people may request them if children often visit their apartment.
The benefits of window guards are huge when it comes to protecting your young or vulnerable loved ones. Therefore, the following ensures that all your windows are properly protected and window guards follow all regulations.
How to Obtain Window Guards in Your Apartment
Every year, between January 1st and January 15th, an Annual Notice form should be provided by your landlord. This is where you can indicate if you have children under eleven living in the apartment. In this form, you can also request window guards for any other reason. This form must be returned by February 15th.
If you sign a lease in the middle of the year, landlords must provide the form within thirty days of occupancy.
Once your landlord installs the window guard, do not remove or alter the device.
What to Know about Window Guards
- All windows in the apartment must have window guards. This includes first floor windows, bathrooms and public hallways.
- The only windows not required to have a window guard are ones leading to a fire escape or secondary exit.
- All window guards must get approved by the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.
- Your landlord must install window guards based on the specific instructions.
- Window guard are fifteen inches tall with no more than four and a half inches of empty space between horizontal bars. This prevents a baby’s head from fitting through.
- In case of an emergency, it is easy to remove window guards and therefore do not pose a fire safety threat.
- Although unusual, building owners can charge residents for the cost. There is a maximum temporary surcharge of $10 per guard.
- Call 311 to report defective or improperly installed window guards to the NYC Citizen’s Service Center.
Liability of Window-Related Falls
Victims or family members injured or killed in a window or window guard accident can potentially obtain financial compensation from the faulty persons or party.
Landlords and building owners will be liable for injuries sustained if they fail to install or maintain a window guard. In fact, in a 2015 incident a young boy in Queens fell out of a window, suffering injuries due to a lack of a window guard. His family obtained a $425,000 verdict as well as reimbursement of medical bills.
Additionally, window guard manufacturers, distributors and sellers can be held legally accountable under certain circumstances, including product defects or malfunctions.
Window Guard Accident Lawyers Ready To Help
Overall, window-related falls have drastically decreased because of window guards. The implementation of NYC window guard rule has ultimately decreased hospital visits linked to window falls by an overwhelming 96%. However, improper use can cause serious injury or even death. Almost any child under six years old can fall through an opening as small as six inches.
If you or your child endures a window fall due to lack of window guards or improperly installed window guards, you should contact an experienced lawyer immediately. For answers regarding your potential case, you can contact our attorneys by email or by calling (718) 364-4000 for a free consultation. You can also fill out one of our case intake forms, and one of our attorneys will get back to you as soon as possible.