Top Causes of Elevator Accidents and Lawsuits

With adequate repair and maintenance, elevators provide a fairly safe means of transport. Accidents do occur however, claiming about 30 lives per year and injuring 17,000. Occasionally, an elevator may stop before reaching the proper level between floors. It may suddenly start, stop, or speed up. Doors may fail to open, or close too quickly. The elevator may fail to arrive, even though its outer doors open. Generator or cable failure may result in elevator malfunction. Or, most deadly of all, people may fall into an open elevator shaft.

Elevator accidents arise from a variety of causes. The major ones are:

Mis-leveling: The most common reason for elevator lawsuits occurs when the elevator fails to come to a stop that is level with the hallway floor. Mis-leveling more often occurs in brake-controlled elevators found in apartment houses built between 1930 and 1960. Hydraulic elevators do not rely on a brake for stopping, although mis-leveling can still occur due to problems with valve leakage or low oil conditions. Successful plaintiffs in a mis-leveling lawsuit must be able to show repeated problems with mis-leveling requiring multiple repairs and possibly violations based on brake or leveling citations.

Defective Sliding Doors: The second most common type of elevator lawsuit results when a passenger is struck and injured by a closing elevator door. This kind of accident more often takes place on elevators with car and hallway doors of the sliding type. Door strikes most commonly occur when door protective devices (electric eyes, safety edges and detector edges) have malfunctioned or or are have defects. In addition, doors improperly adjusted as to closing speed and closing force may strike and injure passengers. In older apartment houses, elevators with swing type outer doors can cause crushing injuries to fingers and hands from doors closing too rapidly.

Over-Speed: In this third most common cause of elevator litigation, passengers may suffer serious injuries to the lumbar or cervical spine, ankles, knees and other body parts. These injuries occur when passengers are thrown to the floor or against the cab wall due to an elevator moving at excessive speed. Counterweights malfunction, or control systems fail to detect and correct over-speed conditions or stop the elevator. In a New York City Penn Plaza building, an elevator traveled from the 46 th floor to the basement, impacting at about 1,000 feet per minute. The passengers sustained high speed impact injuries to their legs and knees, resulting in a $4 million settlement paid by the elevator contractor.

Falls into Shaftways: This category of elevator accident gives rise to the most severe injuries and the greatest number of fatalities. The most common causes of falls into elevator shafts are inoperable or defective door interlocks, passengers exiting elevators stopped more than three feet from a landing, elevator surfing, illegally opening a shaftway door, and removal of passengers from a stalled elevator by untrained personnel. These cases require a careful determination as to whether the accident arose from mechanical malfunction or whether the actions of the victim and other parties contributed to the injuries sustained.

Other Causes of Elevator Accidents: A more uncommon category of elevator accidents involves electrocution or shock caused by improper wiring performed by either the elevator contractor or an outside electrician. Elevator personnel and building staff may also suffer amputations or crushing injuries while operating in unsafe work areas. Even rarer is drowning or near-drowning when elevators become trapped below street level during a fire (while emergency sprinklers or hoses are operating) or water main break. Finally, multiple failures allowing an elevator to move with its doors open may expose passengers to amputations and decapitations when they attempt to exit a moving elevator.

This list of elevator accident causes is not all-inclusive. You or a loved one may have suffered injury due to a more uncommon type of elevator malfunction or incident. Although elevator accidents are relatively rare, they can cause severe injury and even death. If you have been hurt in an elevator accident, contact the Orlow firm for a thorough assessment of your possible legal remedies.

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Slips, Falls, and Other Premises Liability Claims

Our lawyers have helped victims who have been injured in by work-related knee injuries, traumatic brain injuries and other accidents throughout New York. We are dedicated to helping each client recover maximum compensation for their injuries.

Premises liability law involves the legal responsibilities of property owners and occupiers to prevent injuries to persons on their property. One of the most common causes of such injuries is a trip or slip and fall, such as on an icy sidewalk, a loose or uneven stair tread, or a piece of debris or spilled liquid on the floor. Property owner liability varies depending on the rules and principles adopted in the jurisdiction where the injury occurred. An experienced personal injury lawyer at The Orlow Firm in Flushing, New York, can evaluate the strength of your premises liability claim and help you recover damages for lost wages, medical bills, and pain and suffering.

Premises liability: general principles

Some states’ premises liability laws focus on the status of the visitor to the property. In such states, the injured person is generally defined as either an invitee, a licensee or a trespasser.

  • Invitee. An invitee is someone who is expressly or impliedly invited onto the property of another. The owner owes the invitee the highest duty of care, which includes taking every reasonable precaution to ensure the invitee’s safety.
  • Licensee. A licensee, by contrast, enters the property for his or her own purposes but is present at the consent of the owner. The owner is required to warn a licensee of hidden dangers, but is not necessarily required to fix them.
  • Trespasser. A trespasser enters the property without any right whatsoever to do so. In the case of adult trespassers, the owner generally has no duty of care and need not take reasonable care of his property or warn of hidden dangers. Even if a person was trespassing at the time of his or her injury, he or she may still be able to recover, however, if he or she can show that the owner knew it was likely that trespassers would enter the property. Children are owed a higher duty of care, regardless of whether they are considered trespassers. A landowner’s duty to warn is also heightened with respect to children.

In states where consideration is given to the condition of the property and the activities of the owner and visitor, a uniform standard of care is applied to both invitees and licensees. This uniform standard requires the exercise of reasonable care for the safety of visitors other than trespassers. To satisfy the reasonableness standard owed to invitees and licensees, an owner has a continuing duty to inspect the property to identify dangerous conditions and either repair them or post warnings as appropriate.

Proving owners’ liability in premises liability cases

In proving a premises liability case, an injured person must show that the standard of reasonableness required by an owner has not been met. Perhaps the most difficult element an injured person must prove is the owner’s knowledge of the condition causing his or her injury. The injured person must prove that the owner knew or should have known the condition in order for liability to attach, which is often quite difficult to establish.

Defenses to liability in premises liability cases

One of the commonly applied theories to limit an injured person’s recovery is comparative or contributory fault. A visitor has a duty, in most cases, to exercise reasonable care for his or her own safety, and when that degree of care is not exercised, an injured person’s recovery may be limited or reduced by an amount attributable to his or her own negligence.

In the cases where a person’s injuries are the result of slipping on an icy sidewalk in front of a business or on a grape, lettuce leaf, banana peel or other food item that has fallen on a grocery store floor, the property owner may or may not be liable for the person’s injuries. Although property owners have a duty to exercise reasonable care to maintain the premises in such a way to prevent injuries to lawful visitors, if a condition of the premises is noticed by a customer or other visitor or should be readily apparent, the property owner may avoid liability because the injured person has also a duty to protect himself or herself against the injury.

The property owner may also avoid liability by establishing that the debris had so recently fallen on the floor or that the ice had so recently accumulated that the responsible persons had no reasonable opportunity to correct the condition and avoid the hazard before the plaintiff fell. In other words, the plaintiff in a slip and fall case, whether it occurs in a grocery store or elsewhere, must show that the owner had a reasonable period of time in which to discover the dangerous condition and in which to remedy it. The determination of what constitutes a reasonable time will vary from case to case.

Contact a personal injury lawyer

Even common accidents such as slips and falls can present complex legal issues and complicated questions of both fact and law. Accordingly, if you have been injured in a premises-related accident, an experienced and knowledgeable personal injury attorney at The Orlow Firm in Flushing, New York, can advise you on your rights and work with you to pursue a favorable outcome.

Copyright © 2014 FindLaw, a Thomson Reuters business

DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

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Representing People Hurt in Accidents at NYC Airports

Flying is not usually a peaceful experience for people using LaGuardia Airport or JFK Airport here in New York City. Long lines at security, delayed flights and large crowds do not usually make for a relaxing time.

Additionally, you should not have to fear being hurt in an accident at the airport. When store owners at the airport, the airlines or the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey fail to maintain safe premises, you have the right to take action. At The Orlow Firm, our attorneys have helped the victims of negligent property owners in Brooklyn, Queens and New York City recover millions of dollars in compensation for their injuries.

Accidents Can Happen Anywhere. Even Airports.

You may not think about it while you are at the airport, but you can be hurt in accidents like:

  • Tripping or slipping while trying to get on or off an escalator or moving walkway
  • Slipping-and-falling in a poorly maintained bathroom
  • Being struck by a security guard or airline personnel driving a cart
  • Suffering an injury inside a gift shop or restaurant

When you are hurt at an airport, you need experienced attorneys on your side who can effectively evaluate your injuries and gather the evidence necessary to build a strong claim. At The Orlow Firm, you can have peace of mind knowing that you are working with lawyers who are experienced in nearly every type of premises liability accident.

Contact The Orlow Firm Today to Discuss Your Case

Like in other premises liability cases, acting quickly to obtain legal representation is essential. Our New York premises liability attorneys can get to work while you focus on recovering from your injuries.

To schedule a free consultation and put our experience to work for you, you can contact us online or call (646) 647-3398 today.

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Slip and Fall Injuries: Proving Your Case

Who to Sue

If you are injured by slipping and falling on another person’s property, the most likely defendant will be the owner or manager of that property. Other potential defendants include companies that independently contract with the building owner or manager, such as food or cleaning services. Food service companies, for example, may be negligent in transporting or storing their product, causing spills and leakages. Cleaning services are frequently responsible for accidents in retail space or commercial office buildings. They may polish, wax or wet-mop floors during business hours and fail to warn of or close off access to wet or slippery walking surfaces.


To prove liability for a slip and fall injury, you must show one of the following:

  • The property owner, manager or employee caused or created the dangerous condition.
  • The property owner, manager or employee actually knew about the dangerous condition but did nothing to fix it.
  • The property owner, manager or employee should have known about the dangerous condition because a reasonable person in that position would have known about the danger and fixed it.


In order to determine whether a property owner acted reasonably in regard to a dangerous condition, a jury might consider one or more of the following:

  • The length of time the defect or danger was present before the accident occurred. If an awning over a stairwell has been leaking for months, it is less reasonable for the owner to claim he was unaware of it than if the leak had just started the night before. One case held that a slippery substance left on a floor for 15 minutes was sufficient to allow plaintiff to submit proof of liability. It is important to consider the surrounding facts and circumstances of each case.
  • If an object was left on the floor and a person tripped over it, was there a legitimate reason for the object to be there? Or, could it have been more safely positioned or stored?
  • What precautions did the property owner take to minimize slip and fall hazards on the premises? The less burdensome and costly the precaution, the less reasonable it is not to take it.

Carelessness of the Person Injured

Most states apply the rule of comparative negligence in slip and fall cases. If, for example, you ignored a warning sign because you were talking on your cell phone, your damages award may be reduced in proportion to your comparative fault. Some factors to consider are:

  • Did you have a legitimate reason to be on the premises when the accident occurred?
  • Would a reasonable person in the same situation have noticed the dangerous condition and avoided it?
  • Did the property owner erect a barrier or otherwise warn of the dangerous condition?
  • Were you involved in activities that increased your likelihood of slipping and falling, such as texting while walking, or running and jumping around the edge of a wet surface?

Even if a person is severely injured by slipping and falling on a surface such as a wet marble floor, the case will be dismissed unless the plaintiff can show that the property owner created the wet condition, actually knew about it, or should have known about it.

In general, even if the property owner knew that a condition was dangerous before it caused injury, he can avoid liability by showing that he took reasonable steps to fix the condition, such as by mopping floors and putting down mats in rainy weather.

If you think you have a slip and fall claim or another type of premises liability claim, make sure you discuss your case with a reputable attorney.

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Slip and Fall Injuries: Where do They Most Commonly Occur?

Thousands of people are injured each year, some of them seriously, by slipping, tripping or falling on a hazardous floor, an unsafe flight of stairs, or an uneven patch of ground. Injured persons may suffer wrist, ankle and hip fractures, shoulder damage, and even brain trauma. Accidents are part of normal, everyday living, and not all property owners can be held responsible for keeping their premises free of every object or substance that may pose a potential danger. Therefore, not all property owners will be held liable for injuries caused by slips, trips and falls on their premises.

There are, however, a number of well-recognized conditions in certain property areas that routinely present possible slip and fall hazards. Landowners who know or should have known of these dangerous conditions and who fail to remedy them are at risk of being held liable for the injuries that result.


  • Failure to provide adequate warnings when floors are being cleaned and are still wet or damp.
  • Failing to provide adequate barriers to close off access to an area with a wet or damp floor.
  • Applying a floor treatment to a part of the floor that is sloping or on an incline.
  • Failure to use floor treatments containing non-skid ingredients, where appropriate.
  • Using excessive amounts of wax or polish and applying layers unevenly.
  • Treating part of a floor while leaving a part untreated, resulting in uneven conditions that cause a slip and fall.
  • Use of carpeting that is torn, worn, or bulging.
  • Use of mats or rugs with curled edges, worn spots, or holes.


  • Failure to replace missing handrails.
  • Allowing debris such as trash, pieces of paper, dirt, and gum to accumulate on steps.
  • Failure to repair or replace worn steps or those with rounded edges.
  • Improperly maintained escalators likely to catch clothing, footwear, fingers, hands or feet and cause a fall. Escalators and elevators with faulty machinery causing sudden, unexpected jerky movements that can result in trips and falls.


  • Icy conditions occurring when water accumulates on the roof, and then melts, drips off, and refreezes on the ground.
  • Parking lots and sidewalks with sloping, uneven surfaces where water forms puddles and then refreezes.
  • Parking lots and sidewalks with unpatched holes or cracks. Parking lot owners are responsible for maintaining the property in such a manner that it is reasonably safe for people using it.
  • Inadequate outdoor lighting causing pedestrians to trip on curbing, holes, cracks and other uneven surfaces.

Property owners are not responsible for every slippery, uneven or dangerous condition, even those that cause severe injury. Although landowners must take reasonable steps to ensure that their property is free of hazards, there is no hard and fast rule determining liability in these premises liability claims. An experienced attorney can help you evaluate the facts in your case to see if they might lead to a successful slip and fall claim.

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