The Center to Protect Workers’ Rights (CPWR) estimates, “Incidents involving elevators and escalators kill about 30 and seriously injure about 17,000 people each year in the United States.” (2)

New Yorkers at Risk

For New Yorkers, where there are more than 70,000 elevators and escalators in daily use just within New York City (NYC), these figures are troubling. (3) The risks of injuries from elevator and escalator incidents is high.

In fact, CPWR found “elevator- or escalator-related injuries treated at hospitals (including work and non-work-related injuries) jumped by more than 30% from about 19,000 in 2007 to nearly 25,000 in 2017….” (4)

A citywide peak of 105 elevator injuries in 2007, along with accident incidents that involved passenger escapes from stalled elevators, prompted the New York Department of Buildings to launch an elevator safety campaign in 2016. (5)

While increased awareness of elevator and escalator safety is important, passengers and workers should also know the variety of reasons these accidents happen.

If you were injured in an elevator or escalator accident, you may be eligible for compensation.

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Causes of Passenger Injuries

Among the causes of elevator and escalator injuries for passengers are:

  • Clothing caught in the elevator or escalator. Clothing or footwear, shoe laces for example, can be caught when doors to an elevator close. This can also happen at the bottom or top of an escalator between moving stairs and sidewalls. (6)
  • Mechanical malfunctions can lead to multiple injuries. For instance, when an escalator suddenly speeds up or reverses direction. These malfunctions are often related to inadequate inspections and maintenance. (7)
  • Out of service or under repair situations may cause deaths and injuries to occur when elevators are still in use. (8)
  • Door strikes are a frequent source of injury for elevator passengers as they enter or exit. Elevator doors are supposed to be set to close with a specified force to minimize the possibility of closing on someone. (9)
  • Leveling issues can cause tripping and falling hazards. If the gap between the elevator car and landing sills is too wide, passengers who enter or exit may trip or their shoe heels can become caught in this gap, leading to falls and injuries. Proper maintenance is required to prevent this hazard. (10)
  • Entrapment happens when you get stuck in elevators. Entrapment can occur between floors or at floor levels. Passengers have been seriously injured and killed while trying to evacuate stuck elevators. (11)
  • Falling causes escalator riders to suffer injuries. You can fall down steps, over handrails, or get caught in the moving mechanisms of escalators. (12)

Passengers are not the only ones who can be injured or killed in elevator and escalator accidents. Installers, repairmen, and others who work in or around elevator shafts can also get hurt.

Causes of Worker Injuries

In fact, CPWR says just under half of the total number of injuries and deaths in elevator accidents are workers. (13)

  • Falls: Falls into elevator shafts or to a lower level are a very common cause of injury and death among workers. (14)
  • Collapses: Elevator platforms may collapse while a worker is inside the car or on platforms over elevator shafts. (15)
  • Caught in equipment: In a survey of elevator and escalator deaths, “The main causes of death for elevator installers and repairers was being caught in/between elevators and elevator shafts or other elevators…” (16)
  • Struck by equipment: Workers could also be struck by elevators and other objects. Workers who were struck by elevator cars or counterweights may also have been caught in a mechanism. (17)
  • Electrocution and electric shock: Although less frequent, these incidents can cause injuries and death among construction workers. (18)

The causes of worker elevator injuries and deaths were distributed by activities, notes the Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety and Health (ELCOSH): installing and repairing, working in elevator shaft or car, or working near elevators. (19)

Construction Accident Rates Are High

Regardless of the causes of elevator and escalator accidents, the injuries sustained may be serious and the incident rates are high.

The construction industry had the highest elevator and escalator injury rate among all U.S. industries, with elevator installers and repairers topping the list for both fatalities and injuries, the ELCOSH report indicates. (20)

And a study on the dangers of escalators found, “About 10,000 escalator-related injuries per year result in emergency department treatment in the United States. Since the 1990s, a steady increase has been reported….” (21)

Those injuries ranged from sprains and strains to broken bones, concussions, and traumatic injuries or disorders.

Common Elevator and Escalator Injuries for Passengers

There are many injuries that are sustained in elevator and escalator accidents:

  • Dislocations and amputations may occur when a limb or clothing is caught in a closing door of an elevator or a mechanism of a moving escalator, such as an escalator comb plate. (22) (23)
  • Fractures, broken bones, and concussions may all result from slips, trips, and falls. (24)
  • Cuts and lacerations from the moving equipment itself. (25)

Common Elevator and Escalator Injuries for Workers

Construction workers are at greater risk of certain kinds of injuries due to the nature of their activities:

  • Crushing or compression causes neck, shoulder, back, and spinal injuries as a result of being caught between cars or in elevator shafts, or when struck by falling equipment or collapsing platforms. (26)
  • Asphyxiations, strangulations, suffocations are among the fatal injuries suffered while on the job. (27)
  • Head injuries included concussions, and “intracranial injuries, such as crushing head injuries, subdural hematomas, fatal skull fractures, skull fractures accompanied by intracranial injury, craniocerebral trauma, brain contusions….” (28)
  • Electrocution and electric shock often happen when workers perform maintenance activities. (29)
  • Fatal injuries are high and often due to multiple traumatic injuries encompassing “internal injuries involving both head and trunk, blunt force traumas to head and abdomen, head and chest, head and neck…” (30)
  • Death occurs from falls down elevator shafts, often during maintenance or inspections. Death most frequently results from falls of more than 30 feet. (31) (32)

Legal Options

When elevator and escalator accident injuries are due to operator or manufacturer negligence, a lawsuit must establish liability in order to be successful.

Proving liability in negligence cases involves demonstrating:

  • A “duty of care” was owed you by the other party.
  • The other party breached this duty, which caused the accident.
  • Your injuries were a result of this breach.

The legal term “duty of care” means the other party has an obligation to act in such a way as to prevent harm to themselves or others. The standard for this duty is that an individual must act in a way that any reasonable person would, given the same or similar circumstances. (33) (34)

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Accident Compensation

If you were injured in an elevator and escalator accident you may seek compensation for:

  • Lost wages from missing work.
  • Medical bills.
  • Funeral expenses for a loved one.

You may also wish to seek additional financial compensation, depending upon the circumstances of your case.

How Weitz & Luxenberg Can Help

With more than 30 years of experience representing clients in negligence and personal injury cases, Weitz & Luxenberg attorneys are regularly successful for our clients.

Some of our accident cases include:

  • When a 15-year-old boy suffered blindness due to the design of a bungee cord system, W&L helped him recover $10 million in compensation.
  • For a non-English speaking laborer, who lost his leg the workplace due to negligent operation of a forklift and inadequate barriers, W&L achieved a verdict of $2.96 million.