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Stairway Accidents and Injuries a Major Problem, According to ER Physicians

Navigating stairs can be difficult for some people. Unfortunately, falling while walking up or down stairs causes many injuries to people in California and across the U.S. every year. According to a study that was published in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, more than one million people are injured in the U.S. in accidents involving stairs every year. These accidents affect people of all ages, but children, older adults, and women are likelier to suffer injuries.

The study

Researchers at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital, which is located in Columbus, Ohio, looked at stair accident data gathered by the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System between 1990 and 2012 for injuries that required emergency department treatment.[1]
During the 23 years that were included in the study, more than 25 million people were injured. This was an average staircase injury rate of 38 per 10,000 residents each year and means that an estimated 3,000 staircase injury accidents happen every day with one occurring every 30 seconds in the U.S.

The study’s senior author stated that people of all ages are commonly injured in stair-related accidents. He also stated that the rate and frequency of stair injuries have been increasing. Each year, stair-related injuries that do not result in fatalities cost an average of $92 billion. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that approximately 50% of private U.S. residences contain stairs.

The researchers said that more work needs to be done to prevent stair-related injuries, including in the construction and design phases. Between 1990 and 1996, the rates of stair injuries decreased by 13%. However, it then increased by 24% between 1996 and 2012. Among those who were injured, 60% percent of the accidents happened in private homes, and 62% of the injured victims were women.

The highest rates of injury were found with younger adults in their 20s, children who were younger than age three, and elderly adults who were older than age 85. However, more than 66% of the visits to the emergency departments were made by people from the ages of 11 and 60.

The researchers stated that it was unclear why women were likelier to be injured in stair-related accidents. They surmised that women who were in their parenting years might have greater exposure to stairs in their homes while they are completing chores and caring for their children.

Out of the people who had to go to the emergency department for the treatment of stair-related injuries, almost 94% were treated and released. However, 6% of the injured patients were admitted because of concussions or fractures. The most commonly occurring injuries included scrapes, strains, sprains, bruises, and fractures. Children who were injured and who were younger than 10 years old suffered more head injuries. Older adults suffered a greater number of fractures.

Around 60% of the patients reported that they did not know the cause of their accidents. Another 23% reported that they fell after misstepping, slipping, or sliding. A small percentage reported that they could not see where they were stepping because they were carrying items.

The authors said that one common hazard for tripping on stairs is failing to have an overhanging tread on the top step of a staircase. The pattern of staircases might also make people miss the last step when they are walking down a staircase because of an illusion created by the bottom of the stairs.


The researchers said that future researchers should consider stair safety and design. They recommended that remodeling and new construction projects might want to include greater foot surfaces for people to step on. They also said that the vertical and horizontal stair surfaces should be uniform so that people would be less likely to misstep.

According to a building consultant who was not involved in the study, a double standard exists between the standards for residential and commercial staircases. Such things as including handrails that contain a power grip can allow people to grab the railing with their entire hands instead of just their fingers. People should also fix loose carpet and slick surfaces.

People should reduce the risk of injuries by keeping clutter and debris off of their stairs. They should also make sure that their stairways have good lighting, and they should avoid trying to multitask while they are climbing or descending stairs in their homes. Finally, cities might want to consider revising their building codes to improve the safety standards for the construction of staircases.

When might an injured victim have a legal claim after a stair injury accident?

Not every stair accident will have the required grounds for filing an injury lawsuit. Whether you might have a claim will depend on where your fall occurred, whether you were legally present, and whether a defect or another problem caused your fall and injuries. If you simply slipped and fell on the stairs in your home because you were not paying attention, you will not have valid grounds for a claim. However, if you were visiting the property of another and fell because of a dangerous condition on the stairs or in a stairwell, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit to recover damages.

Residential and commercial property owners have a duty of care to keep their premises in a reasonably hazard-free and safe condition. If you were a guest at someone else’s home or were visiting a business to shop when you fell on stairs and were injured, you may have grounds to file a claim, depending on whether a dangerous condition existed for a long enough time that it should reasonably have been discovered and fixed to prevent accidents and injuries.

Some of the reasons for staircase falls that have been identified by the Steven M. Sweat Personal Injury Lawyers include the following:

  • Poor lighting
  • Stair defects
  • Damaged steps
  • Improper stair riders
  • Faulty handrails

If stairs are inadequately maintained, they can become damaged and cause people to trip or slip and fall. Building owners and homeowners should promptly repair damaged steps to prevent people from falling and injuring themselves. They should also make sure that any carpets or riders on stairs are secured and not bunched up, and there should be plenty of light in stairwells so that people can see where they are stepping. The handrails should be kept in good condition so that people can grab onto them to prevent themselves from falling if they slip.

If your fall happened when you were visiting the property of someone else because of damage to the stairs, poor lighting, or debris, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit against the property’s owner or operator. An experienced attorney can review what happened and offer guidance about the merits of your claim.

Contact the Steven M. Sweat Personal Injury Lawyers for help

Injury accidents on stairs are common in California and the U.S. When people fall and injure themselves while navigating stairs because of the negligence of others, they may have valid grounds to file claims to recover compensation for their losses. Contact the Steven M. Sweat Personal Injury Lawyers today to learn about your potential claim by calling us at 866.966.5240.



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