Inspecting the Scene of a Stair Trip & Fall Claim

There are thousands of personal injuries each year as a result of falls. Walking involves the assumption of risk because human locomotion is bipedal requiring the walker to be constantly off balance. Injuries as a result of falls can occur on floors, streets, sidewalks and stairways. Using stairs is more hazardous than walking on level ground because the consequences of a fall can be more substantial. Falling is the leading cause of worldwide injuries. Most stair fall claims allege building related deficiencies involving code applicability, handrail issues, slippery tread surfaces and human factors. Approximately 60% of all falls are initiated by slipping. The static coefficient of friction (SCOF) between a person’s footwear and the walking surface is an indication of the friction available to prevent a person from slipping. It is imperative that an engineering expert be brought in early to assess liability before the conditions can change.

A thorough investigation of the scene including testing of slip resistance and illumination levels and a review of written materials and research of the applicable codes and standards allows the engineer to draw certain conclusions. The engineer’s conclusions, based on a reasonable degree of engineering and scientific certainty, are based on 1. thorough review and assessment of information provided through discovery: deposition testimony, police and ambulance reports, incident reports, hospital records, climatological data, interrogatory answers, statements of witnesses, 2. inspection of the scene of the incident, 3. test results,  and 4. various technical codes and standards.

Were the building codes met? Were handrails required at the location? Were there sufficient visual cues and safety features to reasonably draw attention to a change in elevation? Human factors i.e. distractions; often play a vital role in stair related injuries. Was the person attentive in navigating the stair area? Are the injuries sustained consistent with the type of fall? Also, if necessary, were lighting and warning signs adequate in the area being examined? Some specific issues that are examined by an engineer in stair related trip or slip and fall accidents include:

•    Existence of Handrails
•    Riser and tread dimensions
•    Dimensional uniformity
•    Single step accidents
•    Foreign substances
•    Slip resistance
•    Lighting
•    Defective nosings
•    Defective coverings on treads
•    Landings
•    Slope of Treads
•    Maintenance

CED engineers have extensive expertise and education along with state-of-the-art technology to investigate these types of accidents. Our team of engineers inspects, performs slip resistance and illumination testing and evaluates slip trip and fall accidents that occur in public, private and commercial locations. Please call us today at 800.780.4221 to discuss your next case.