Elevator Accidents in New York

scary looking elevator

Millions of New Yorkers ride elevators every day. They are essential for the transport of people and cargo in a city of high-rise buildings. Elevators can malfunction and cause injury or death. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission estimate that there are about 27 deaths in elevator accidents each year in the United States. About 10,200 people are injured in elevator accidents each year, with the majority of these accidents being related to elevator door malfunctions, carriage misalignment with floors, and passenger safety vulnerabilities.

The underlying causes of elevator accidents may be due to one of several defects or malfunctions, such as in the wiring, pulley systems, door operation, or improper maintenance procedures, says the Consumer Watch website. However, New York property owners are legally responsible for properly maintaining buildings, including ensuring the safety of elevators on the premises.

If you have been injured in an elevator accident, you may be entitled to compensation if the accident was caused by the property owner’s negligence. A lawyer from Hecht, Kleeger & Damashek can review the specifics of your accident, and determine whether someone else was at fault for your injuries. If so, we can help you pursue compensation that you are due to cover medical bills and other injury-related losses.

The Elevator Where Your Accident Occurred

There are about 60,000 elevators in New York City located within commercial, retail, or residential properties, according to the NYC Department of Buildings.

Elevators vary in size and capacity and serve five primary functions:

  • Passenger. Passenger elevators can be hydraulic, which travel a maximum height of 50 feet, or traction-driven, for medium- and high-rise architecture over 50 feet.
  • Freight. Freight elevators carry heavy loads with a primary purpose of lifting general freight, carrying motor vehicles, and loading industrial trucks.
  • Personnel. Personnel elevators are designed for limited use by maintenance, mechanical, or operations personnel in places such as grain elevators, towers, power plants, dams, and underground facilities.
  • LULA (Limited Use/Limited Application). LULA elevators are meant to be used by a small number of people on a light, as-needed basis, and are designed to fit in very small spaces. They primarily exist in buildings where they are required by legislation ensuring equal access to all individuals.
  • Home. Small home elevators are a convenience or a means of accessibility for people with limited mobility.

There are three types of elevators:

  • Hydraulic Elevators. These are supported by a piston at the bottom of the elevator that pushes the elevator up, while an electric motor forces oil or another hydraulic fluid into the piston. The elevator descends as a valve releases the fluid from the piston.
  • Traction Elevators. These are lifted by ropes that pass over a wheel attached to an electric motor above the elevator shaft. A counter weight offsets the weight of the car and the passengers so that the motor doesn’t have to move as much weight.
  • Machine-Room-Less Elevators. These are traction elevators that do not have a dedicated machine room above the elevator shaft. Control boxes are located in a control room adjacent to the elevator shaft on the highest landing and within about 150 feet of the machine.

Regardless of their type or use, New York City code requires that all elevators in the city be properly installed and maintained. Other municipalities throughout the state have similar codes and ordinances. The NYC Department of Buildings’ Elevator Division inspects elevators in accordance with the city’s building code and American Society of Mechanical Engineers elevator standards. Elevators must pass installation inspections as well as periodic inspections by the Department of Buildings to be legally operated.

Have You been Injured in an Elevator Accident?

Neglected maintenance, incomplete or poorly performed repairs, or inspections by unqualified personnel can lead to an elevator malfunction.

People are injured and sometimes killed in elevator accidents caused by:

  • Sudden stops
  • Rapid acceleration
  • Unexpected door closings or openings
  • Falls due to open shaft
  • Mechanical breakdown or defect causing an elevator to drop rapidly within the shaft
  • Unbalanced leveling and the failure of the elevator to line up with the floor, resulting in slips, trips and falls into and out of the elevator
  • Faulty wiring or elevator control malfunction causing a risk of electrocution or fire
  • Exposure to the outdoors during winter causing damage if water on trolleys or car frames freezes.

Elevator accidents can result in severe harm, including back injuries, neck damage, leg injuries, knee injuries, head injuries, brain damage, spinal cord injuries and fractures. Fire can cause burns and smoke-inhalation injuries.

The Consumer Watch website says among passengers using elevators while not at work, such as in apartment buildings and stores, almost half of deaths reported were due to falls in the elevator shaft, and the other half occurred as a result of being caught between the elevator and the shaft wall.

You May be Due Compensation for an Elevator Accident

The owner of a building with elevators is responsible for maintaining all elevators on the property and paying all inspection fees. Neglecting elevator maintenance may lead to fines. If the failure to properly install and maintain elevators causes an accident that injures someone, the building owner may be held liable and compelled to compensate the injured person. In some cases, the elevator manufacturer or the company that installed it may be liable as well.

Elevator accidents can cause injuries that result in permanent disabilities that make the accident victim unable to work for a living. Compensation sought in a legal claim after such personal injuries may consist of money for:

  • Medical care, including hospitalization
  • Lost wages
  • Home care
  • Rehabilitation therapy.

Hecht Kleeger & Damashek can help by thoroughly investigating your accident to document your injuries and determine whether the building owner or other parties should be held liable for the harm you have suffered. With the evidence collected, we will diligently seek all benefits you are due for your medical costs and other injury-related expenses.

Records will indicate whether the elevator has been inspected on a regular basis as required by law. Footage from the elevator’s security camera may have recorded your accident. In addition to your statement and testimony by any witnesses to your accident, there may be other complaints on file by others who frequent the apartment building, office tower, shopping mall, or hotel where your accident occurred. Others may be able to testify to similar malfunctions or accidents, and indicate that the building’s management knew of the problem.

Our law firm will be by your side throughout the claim process, helping you obtain sufficient medical documentation of your injuries and the ongoing effect it has had on your life. New York City personal injury attorneys from our firm will advise you of the potential outcomes of your claim and the pertinent premises liability and personal injury law.

Personal injury lawsuits can be complex and time consuming. It is important to begin the work necessary to pursue a legal claim as soon as you are able. New York’s statute of limitations requires personal injury victims to file claims within three years of the date of the accident or from the date that the injuries became evident. It is best to begin work in a timely manner to ensure your claim is not denied due to the statute of limitations.

Contact Our New York Elevator Accident Attorneys

If you or a loved one has been injured because of a malfunctioning or otherwise unsafe elevator in New York, contact Hecht Kleeger & Damashek for a free discussion of your accident and the legal options available to you. The owner of the building where your accident occurred or others may be required to compensate you for medical bills and other expenses related to your accident.

Hecht Kleeger & Damashek, P.C. is a personal injury firm that provides seasoned legal advice to victims of elevator accidents in New York City and elsewhere in New York State. We work hard to ensure our clients secure the financial benefits necessary to fully recover financially from their injuries. Contact us today.