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Elevator Accidents in NYC

According to Consumer Watch, there are close to a million elevators in the U.S. They make over 18 billion trips per year, each one carrying an average of five people per trip.

For New York City residents in particular, riding in an elevator is part of daily life. Whether at home in a high-rise apartment building or condominium, getting to work, getting to the upper floor of a store, or visiting a doctor, dentist, attorney, or other professional office, riding in an elevator is a necessity.

Overall, elevators are reliable and safe. However, accidents happen.

What Causes NYC Elevator Accidents?

According to the city’s Department of Buildings, there are hundreds of thousands of elevators, escalators, and related equipment in NYC. However, elevator accidents occur for a variety of reasons, often due to mechanical and maintenance issues.
Here are some common causes of NY elevator accidents:

Mis-Leveling

This occurs when an elevator fails to align properly with the floor level, potentially due to brake or electrical issues or overloading. This can lead to trip and fall accidents, especially for the elderly and children.

Excessive Speed

If an elevator moves too quickly, it can result in passengers being thrown against walls or each other, causing injury. Regular maintenance and inspections are essential to monitor and control elevator speed.

Door Strikes

Malfunctioning doors can strike passengers, potentially due to faulty sensors or misadjusted closing mechanisms.

Inadequate Maintenance and Inspections

New York City requires biannual inspections of elevators. Neglecting these can lead to malfunctions and accidents. A current inspection certificate should be visible inside the elevator.

Defective Doors

Even with modern sensors designed to prevent accidents, doors can malfunction and close unexpectedly, posing a risk of entrapment or crushing injuries.

Falling Down Shafts

One of the deadliest elevator accidents is a fall down the shaft, which can occur due to an unsecured outer door or when attempting to exit a stuck elevator.

Abrupt Stops

An elevator that stops suddenly can cause passengers to collide with the elevator interior, leading to serious injuries. This may be due to malfunctioning speed controls or emergency systems.

 Other Hazards

Additional risks include being caught in elevator doors, electrocution, or injuries from abrupt movements, power failures, or doors that do not open properly.

What Injuries Are Common in NYC Elevator Accidents

In NYC, where elevators are an integral part of the urban infrastructure, these powerful machines pose significant dangers if not properly maintained. Common injuries from elevator accidents include neck and back injuries, leg and knee damage, head and brain injuries, spinal cord trauma, fractures, lacerations, and burns.

Some accidents, particularly those involving falls down shafts or malfunctions, can even be fatal. In fact, approximately 50% of elevator-related fatalities result from shaft falls, highlighting the critical need for proper safety protocols and regular maintenance to prevent such tragic incidents. If a loved one has died in an elevator accident, surviving family members may have legal grounds for a wrongful death claim.

Who’s Responsible for a NYC Elevator Accident?

In New York City, the responsibility for elevator accidents typically falls on the property owners, lessees, or residents, who are obligated to maintain their premises in a safe condition under premises liability law. They owe a duty of care to prevent harm to anyone on the property apart from trespassers unless certain conditions apply. This includes ensuring that elevators are properly maintained and repaired.

Should an accident occur due to a negligent condition, such as faulty doors or mechanical malfunctions, the property owners or their agents may be held liable if the injured party can prove that they were lawfully on the premises, the responsible party was aware or should have been aware of the hazard, and the negligence directly caused the injury.

NYC Has Elevator Laws

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 also pass installation inspections as well as periodic inspections by the Department of Buildings to be legally operated. 

What to Do After an Elevator Accident?

If you or a loved one is a victim of an elevator accident, here’s what you need to do to achieve compensation:

  • Get out of the elevator immediately. If you’re unable to move, call for help.
  • Seek medical attention. Even if you are feeling okay, some injuries may appear later. Ask your doctor for a full report.
  • Gather information. If there are witnesses or other victims, get their contact information.
  • If possible, document the scene. Take pictures of the elevator and where the accident occurred. The more details you get, the greater the chance that you’ll be compensated.
  • Contact a lawyer. An experienced and knowledgeable elevator accident lawyer can help you understand your legal options and pursue a claim to maximize your potential compensation.

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How an Elevator Accident Lawyer at HKD Can Help

If you’ve suffered an injury or loss in an elevator accident, Hecht, Kleeger & Damashek, P.C. can assist by examining the details of your incident to identify any negligence that may have contributed to your injuries. In cases where property owners, third-party contractors, or manufacturers may be at fault, HKD can help you navigate the legal process.

First, we’ll conduct a thorough investigation, including reviewing maintenance records, inspecting security footage, and gathering witness testimonies to build a strong case. Then, we will handle all aspects of filing your claim, advise on the law, and work within New York’s statute of limitations to pursue the compensation you deserve.

Proving Fault/Negligence for an Elevator Accident

In cases of elevator accidents, proving fault or negligence is critical for a premises liability claim in New York. To establish this, the injured party must show that they were lawfully on the premises, the owner or manager was negligent in maintaining the elevator, and this negligence directly caused their injury. A lawyer can be instrumental in this process.

  • Lawful Presence: The person injured in the elevator accident must demonstrate that they were lawfully on the premises, meaning they had a right to be there, whether as an invited guest, customer, employee, or someone hired to perform work.
  • Negligence: It must be shown that the premises owner, lessee, or resident was negligent. This means they knew or should have known about a hazardous condition on the property and failed to repair it adequately or at all.
  • Causation: There needs to be a direct link between the negligence of the owner, lessee, or resident and the injury sustained by the plaintiff.

In cases where trespassers are injured, typically, the property owner does not owe a duty of care. However, if the property owner is aware of the trespasser’s presence and does nothing to mitigate potential hazards, or if there is an ‘attractive nuisance’ that could lure children, they may still be held liable for injuries sustained.

Evidence in Elevator Accident Cases

In the aftermath of an elevator-related injury, several forms of evidence are crucial to building a case. Maintenance records can verify if the elevator was regularly inspected in compliance with legal standards. Security camera footage from the elevator can capture the incident. Personal accounts and any witness testimonies are invaluable. Additionally, previous complaints lodged by individuals who have used the elevator can serve as evidence, particularly if they highlight recurring issues, suggesting that the property management was aware of ongoing problems.

About the New York City Law Firm of Hecht, Kleeger & Damashek, P.C.

Video Transcript

At Hecht, Kleeger & Damashek, we see a lot of elevator accidents or escalator accidents. Elevator accidents sometimes involve misleveling or the elevator dropping suddenly. ... In that case, you'll have a lot of back and neck injuries. In escalator accidents, we see degloving injuries where the skin will come off of the foot, broken bones, things of that nature.

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Compensation for NYC Elevator Accidents

Victims of elevator accidents may be entitled to various types of compensation based on the specifics of their case. Medical expenses are a primary concern and can cover everything from immediate emergency care to long-term treatments and surgeries. Lost wages are compensated to offset the financial strain of work absences during recovery. In-home care and rehabilitation therapy costs can also be reclaimed, ensuring victims receive the support they need for daily activities and to make a full recovery where possible.

Further, if the accident results in death or permanent disabilities that disrupt the victim’s ability to work or perform regular activities, compensation for these life-altering conditions may be pursued. This can include provisions for future lost earnings, the cost of necessary modifications to the home, and compensation for pain and suffering.

At Hecht, Kleeger & Damashek, P.C., the goal is to obtain the full extent of compensation that reflects the totality of the physical, emotional, and financial hardships faced by the victim. Due to the statute of limitations in New York, which sets a three-year period within which to file a personal injury claim, it’s crucial to begin this process without delay. Prompt action allows for the thorough gathering of evidence and ensures that the claim is filed within the legal time frame, preserving the victim’s right to seek justice and financial relief.

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Contact Our New York Elevator Accident Attorneys

If you or a loved one has been injured or killed because of an unsafe elevator in New York, contact Hecht, Kleeger & Damashek, P.C. for a free consultation about your options. The owner of the building where your accident occurred or others should be held accountable, and we can help pursue everything you legally deserve.

Our personal injury firm provides top-tier legal representation to the victims of elevator accidents in New York City and across New York State. Call (212) 490-5700. for a free, no-risk consultation, and there’s no cost unless you recover compensation.

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