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Defective stairs and elevators - who is at fault?

Stairs and elevators are an unavoidable and unremarkable aspect of daily life. People use them every day without a second thought, trusting that they’re free of dangerous defects. In the vast majority of cases this is true. Unfortunately, even slightly faulty stairs and elevators can cause an accident, which can lead to serious injury. That’s why it’s important that everyone, both those responsible for stairs and elevators and those who use them, is aware of their rights and obligations under Australian law.

In what ways can elevators or stairs be defective?

There are many ways elevators or stairs can be faulty and cause an injury.

In the case of stairs, some classic and common hazards include:

  • Being wet and/or slippery
  • Being inappropriate or uneven height or width
  • Lacking railings (or having faulty railings), and
  • Being poorly lit.
Elevators can be made unsafe by defects such as:
  • Tripping hazards as people enter or exit
  • Door malfunctions, and
  • Abrupt stopping.
Stairs and elevators don’t necessarily have to be broken to be defective. For instance, one successful claimant was injured by falling backwards down some stylish, but perilously designed, wood-paneled stairs that were camouflaged by the surrounding wood cabinetry and hardwood floor.

Not all defects are obvious to the naked eye. In another stair case, a cleaner who fell down classroom stairs one rainy afternoon was compensated by the school for failing to maintain the non-slip paint coating.

Who is responsible for maintaining elevators and stairs?

Generally speaking, the owner or occupier of a property will have a ‘duty of care’ (or responsibility) to make sure that their elevators or stairs do not cause reasonably foreseeable accidents. This is especially true for businesses, but it can also apply to private homeowners.

However, determining who is legally at fault for an accident is often far from clear-cut and requires the advice of a public liability expert.

After an accident

If your life, livelihood or health has been affected by a slip, trip or fall injury caused by a defective elevator or stair, you may have the right to claim compensation.

Shine Lawyers can show you your options moving forward on a No Win No Fee basis. By seeking legal advice quickly, you can protect your potential claim from being blocked by strict time limits and receive the help you need to recover from your injury as soon as possible.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: January 31, 2018.

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