November 1, 2021

Common Causes of Elevator Accidents

By Jonathan Damashek

Posted in

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You probably don’t think twice when you get into an elevator. Like all large cities, New York City wouldn’t exist as we know without elevators. But these powerful machines come with dangers if not properly looked after.

With So Many Elevators in NYC, Accidents Will Happen

There are about 71,000 elevators, escalators, and related equipment in New York City, according to the city’s Department of Buildings. Building owners face a wide array of regulations and rules concerning elevators:

  • There must be an annual inspection
  • Inspection and testing results are filed with the city
  • Permits must be received before work can be performed

With tens of thousands of elevators in the city operating day after day, it’s just a matter of time before someone’s hurt, possibly seriously, because of an elevator that’s poorly designed, constructed, or maintained.

Often those accidents happen while a building’s under construction. For example, a 30-year-old construction worker in the Bronx died while another was severely injured when a freight elevator they were loading collapsed and fell several stories. The building, a former ice factory, had been vacant for 15 years and will be the Dream Charter School’s main campus.

How People Get Hurt in Elevator Accidents

In the United States, more than 30 victims die every year, and 17,000 injuries occur in elevator accidents. Many of these accidents could have been prevented if the proper precautions had been taken.

Here are the most common causes of elevator accidents to help you avoid them:


This happens when an elevator fails to reach the same level as the floor of the building and passengers try to get out. This can be more common with older elevators that use brakes to stop at the right level.

Problems could be with the brake linings, springs, or drum. The elevator could also be overloaded, or the electrical voltage could fluctuate. More modern variable voltage elevators use dynamic braking to stop the car (using an electric traction motor as a generator when slowing the elevator), with a brake used when it’s fully stopped.

These elevators can also mis-level, but the cause is usually due to a part of the floor selector, leveling subsystems, or doors opening before the car reaches the floor

Door Strikes

Passengers can be struck and injured by a closing, sliding door. There could be broken door protection devices (electric eyes, safety edges, and detector edges).

The closing force or speed may not be properly adjusted, or the door protection device doesn’t react quickly enough to avoid passenger contact.

Abrupt Stops

These can cause serious spine, ankle, and knee injuries as passengers are thrown into walls, the floor, and into each other.

Many potential causes include the failure of the car to recognize it’s going too fast, the elevator being misinformed in where it is in the shaft, and a failure of the car’s emergency systems to stop it safely. The car could also collide with its counterweight, and bolts and hardware can be sheared off, causing the car to lose control.

Falls Down the Shaft

Someone could fall down an elevator shaft because the outer door’s locking system doesn’t work, exiting a stalled elevator more than three feet above a floor, removing people from a stalled elevator improperly, or “elevator surfing.”

Other Possible Elevator Accidents

Other accidents usually involve faulty sliding doors and other malfunctioning features. This can result in being electrocuted by a malfunctioning elevator, suffering a limb amputation, decapitation, or crushing injuries.

Seek Legal Advice After an Elevator Accident

As you can see, elevator accidents can cause serious, often fatal, injuries. If you or a loved one are ever involved with an elevator accident, make sure your attorney is up to the task.

At Hecht, Kleeger & Damashek, P.C., we protect the rights of accident victims and work hard to get them the compensation they deserve. We take cases on contingency, so you’re not obligated to pay us until your case settles or you win your trial.

If you or a family member is involved in an elevator accident, contact us immediately for a free consultation. Our elevator accident lawyers are here to help.