Stairs can be a tricky thing – especially here in Colorado where snow and ice can make outdoor steps dangerous and even indoor stairs wet and slippery. However, property owners have a responsibility to maintain a safe environment for anyone who is legally on their property. The only exception is trespassers. Even then, there are exceptions – particularly for children if you have something that could be considered an “attractive nuisance.”
So if you fall down the stairs in an office building, store, vacation rental or even at a neighbor’s home, when can they be held liable for damages (such as your medical bills and lost wages as well as potentially non-economic damages like pain and suffering)?
Common causes of property owner negligence that can cause falls
If the stairs were unsafe due to lack of maintenance or even the way they were built, you may be able to hold the property owner liable for negligence. Here are some of the most common types of negligence involving stairs:
- Broken handrails: This includes handrails that are poorly secured (so they move) or broken. Lack of handrails can also be a problem.
- Slippery surfaces: This can be a tricky one. If someone just spilled something, a property owner may not be aware of it. However, if the stairs were just waxed, they should have a cautionary sign. Having non-slip material on stairs can help minimize slips.
- Broken stairs: If there’s a hole in a step that hasn’t been fixed or something that has made the steps uneven, it’s easy to lose your balance or fall. Repairing stairs should always be a priority.
- Poor lighting: Stairs and stairwells should always be lighted or at least have an adjacent light switch. This can prevent trips as well as a criminal activity if the stairs are in a public place.
People often blame their own clumsiness when they fall down the stairs or they assume that those responsible for the property will blame them. However, if your fall was the result of negligence on the part of a property owner, it’s a good idea to find out more about your right to seek compensation.