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Elevator Accidents and Injuries

There are an estimated 900,000 elevators and 50,000 escalators in the United States. The vast majority of elevators are located in commercial, retail or residential buildings, with each one servicing an average of 20,000 people per year. With billions of passenger trips on elevators every year, there are thousands of elevator injuries and about 30 deaths caused by elevator accidents every year.

Elevator accidents can cause serious personal injuries as a result of defects or malfunction. Injuries from elevators can occur in various ways, including:

  • When there is a pulley system malfunction or a mechanical breakdown or defect an elevator can suddenly drop rapidly;
  • When there is an open shaft and the doors malfunction and open, this allows people to fall into the shaft;
  • When there is a problem with the leveling of the elevator and it does not line up evenly with the floor people can trip and fall while entering or exiting;
  • When the doors malfunction and suddenly close on people before they have had a chance to get in or out of the elevator safely;
  • When there is faulty wiring or an elevator control malfunction there is risk of fire or electrocution.

Common Reasons for Accidents in Elevators

Common reasons for elevator accidents are inadequate or faulty maintenance, and lack of regular inspections and repairs by the owner of the elevator or its maintenance company. Elevators are considered “common carriers” under California law, similar to trains and busses. The law requires owners and operators of common carriers to exercise the highest degree of care and vigilance and do all that can be done to avoid harm to passengers. This duty, imposed by law on common carriers, is higher than the ordinary, reasonable degree of care in other types of negligence cases, like auto accidents. Common carriers must use the highest care in constructing, servicing, inspecting and maintaining their equipment for the safety of passengers. Even though they do not guarantee safety, they must do everything that human care, vigilance and foresight reasonably can do under the circumstances to avoid harm to people and will be held liable for even the slightest amount of negligence.

As a common carrier, owners and operators of elevators must keep up with modern improvements and adopt commonly accepted safely designs and devices in all elevators used for transporting people. An elevator owner or operator will also be responsible for a defect in their equipment if they created it, knew about it, or would have known about it if they had exercised the highest amount of care for inspections, maintenance and repair.

What’s the California Statute of Limitations for Elevator Accidents?

In general, the statute of limitations in California for filing a case for injuries caused by an elevator accident is two years from the date of the injury. In cases where the elevator was owned or operated by a public entity, such as the state, a city, county, or public building or hospital, a formal written claim must be filed with the appropriate public entity within six months of the date of the incident.

Investigating an Elevator Accident

If you or someone you know has been hurt in a elevator accident it is extremely important to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible so an investigation can be conducted immediately, evidence can be secured and documented and witnesses can be located and interviewed. When the case has been commenced it will be necessary to obtain the documents showing the history of inspections, maintenance and repair and if there have been any other incidents or injuries caused by the elevator.

Contact an Elevator Accident Attorney in San Francisco

The lawyers at Callaway & Wolf have experience handling elevator injury cases and are here to answer any questions you may have. Contact us for a free telephone consultation about your situation at 415-541-0300.

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