The difficulty with staircase accidents
When a person trips and falls down some stairs and gets severely injured, a compensation claim is certainly worth exploring. However, the injured person or claimant must be aware of the inherent difficulties in pursuing these types of claims.
One difficulty is that the prospective defendant will almost always deny liability. For a claim to succeed, the first step is to establish that the accident (that caused the claimant’s injuries) was due to the negligence or fault of the defendant.
A consistent denial of liability will often lead to an expensive and lengthy exercise to attempt to establish negligence. Typically, court proceedings may need to be commenced to continue the process, which in itself can be a difficult decision for a claimant to make.
With claims involving stairs, some factors to consider whether there is any negligence include:
- How familiar the claimant is with the stairs – has he/she used it before?
- Was the claimant intoxicated or impaired in any other way (by their own act) while descending the stairs?
- Are there handrails on each side of the stairs?
- Does the tip of the steps of the stairs have any non-slip material on it?
- Is there sufficient lighting or warning signs in case the stairs is typically exposed to rain or other factors which may increase the likelihood of people slipping and falling?
- Have there been previous complaints about how slippery and dangerous the stairs is?
- Is the defendant aware of these complaints? Have they done anything about it?
However, it is not all about attempting to establish negligence on the part of the defendant. There is also an obligation on the claimant to have taken steps for their own safety. In NSW, the courts have recognised that stairs can be inherently dangerous and while it is expected for defendants to take reasonable precautions to prevent accidents, claimants are also expected to look after their own safety therefore their knowledge and actions prior to the accident will also be considered.
Another difficulty is that the defendant’s insurer is not obligated to pay for ongoing treatment expenses. In other types of claims such as motor vehicle accidents or workers compensation, once liability is admitted the insurer has an obligation to pay for the claimant’s ongoing reasonable and necessary treatment expenses. This is not the same with claims involving stairs. In most cases, these expenses may only be reimbursed at the end of a successful claim.
If you have been injured in an accident involving stairs and is exploring a potential claim, please call us on 1800 468 362 or make an online enquiry for a free, no-obligation consultation.
Written by Erick Culala.