Elevator and Escalator Accidents
Many people in Southern California work, live, or shop in buildings that have elevators and escalators, which they must ride multiple times a day. There are numerous opportunities for accidents. In some cases, an elevator is broken or has needed repair for some time. In other cases, another person's negligent activity on an escalator puts other riders in harm's way. There may be accidents due to a problem with the bottom of the elevator compartment getting flush with an outside floor, resulting in a trip and fall with serious injuries. Passengers may also be hurt due to an older elevator cable breaking, a safety brake system failure, or injuries to limbs when someone tries to stop the doors from closing. If you are hurt in an elevator or escalator accident, the Los Angeles premises liability attorneys at Sharifi Firm may be able to guide you in pursuing damages.
Establishing Responsibility for Elevator and Escalator Accidents
Lawsuits arising out of elevator and escalator accidents typically move forward under two theories: premises liability and negligence. If the elevator or escalator has a defect, the plaintiff may proceed against the manufacturer under a product liability theory.
In a premises liability claim, a California plaintiff will need to establish that the defendant owned or otherwise controlled the property, the defendant was negligent in using or maintaining the property, the plaintiff was hurt, and the defendant's negligence was a substantial factor in causing the plaintiff's harm. A plaintiff will need to show that the escalator or elevator presented a dangerous condition, which the property owner knew or should have known about. If the property owner either failed to warn of a dangerous condition or failed to repair it, it may be held liable. How long the dangerous condition existed before the accident can affect whether a jury finds that the property owner should have known about it.
California allows juries to identify entities as "common carriers" (those who carry persons for reward) based on their analysis of whether they maintain a regular place of business for transporting travelers, advertise their services to the public, and have standard fees or fares that are charged to transport a customer. In most cases involving negligence, the duty of ordinary care is that which a reasonable person would use considering the circumstances. However, without being insurers of passengers' safety, common carriers are expected to do everything that care, vigilance, and foresight could reasonably accomplish under the circumstances. This is a much higher standard of care than that of ordinary negligence. Under California Civil Code section 2100, a common carrier must use the utmost diligence for passenger safety and use a reasonable degree of skill. It must also provide vehicles safe and fit for their purpose.
In California, some operators of elevators and escalators are considered common carriers. The rationale is that, even though a store does not charge for the use of an elevator or escalator, it profits from the use of these devices to help customers who are shopping at the store.
A building's regular maintenance of an elevator or escalator may not be a defense to liability, at least in those cases in which the owner of the elevator or escalator is determined to be a common carrier. The higher duty of care is owed only towards passengers or riders. Those who are injured who are not passengers—such as small children playing around the bottom of an escalator or a bystander—are only owed the ordinary standard of due care.
Consult a Los Angeles Attorney for Your Injury Claim
If you have been hurt in an elevator or escalator accident, you should consult an experienced Los Angeles personal injury lawyer. Sharifi Firm also represents accident victims in Temecula, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Rancho Cucamonga, among other Southern California cities. Contact us at 1-866-422-7222 or via our online form for a free, no-obligation consultation.