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Important Information About Escalator Injuries

Mother and child stand on an escalator.

According to a 2013 article published in Western Journal of Emergency Medicine: Integrating Emergency Care with Population Health and available to the public through the National Institutes of Health, escalator accidents send approximately 10,000 people to the hospital each year in the United States. Many people ride escalators on a daily basis, never fully understanding that these machines are far more dangerous than they seem. Escalator injuries are relatively common, and these accidents may lead to life-altering consequences for plaintiffs. To appreciate the dangers associated with escalators, one must review the history of these machines and their most frequent issues. If you have already suffered escalator injuries, or if someone you love has been injured in an escalator accident, you may be able to receive more targeted information and guidance from a personal injury attorney with Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC. Call (603) 707-4800 to begin the discussion. 

A Brief History of Escalator Accidents

According to Technology and Culture, escalators were a major highlight at the 1900 Paris Exposition – along with “moving sidewalks.” French manufacturers stole the show, but a Massachusetts resident named Nathan Ames had patented the first escalator in the United States more than four decades prior. Americans were also the first to exhibit a working escalator, and the machine appeared on Coney Island, New York in 1896. From there, escalators became ubiquitous in subway stations, airports, malls, and many other buildings across the world. However, these additions have come at a cost. Escalators have been involved in several high-profile disasters throughout history:

  • In 1982, an escalator accident in Moscow caused eight deaths and 30 injuries
  • In 1987, an escalator accident in London killed 31 people and injured 100 more
  • In 2011, an escalator in Beijing malfunctioned – causing one death and 27 injuries
  • In 2015, an escalator accident in Prague sent three women to the hospital
  • In 2018, an escalator accident in Rome injured 24 people 

What Are the Most Common Escalator Injuries?

While the escalator may seem unthreatening, it is more dangerous than you might think. There are a number of common escalator accidents and injuries.

Fire-Related Injuries

The deadliest escalator-related accident in history was the aforementioned incident in London. Known as the “King’s Cross Fire,” this accident was particularly notable because most of the deaths were related to burns or smoke inhalation. The King’s Cross Fire highlights the fact that some escalators may pose fire hazards – especially older models with wooden elements. 

Falls

According to a paper released in 2020 by the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, falls are the most common escalator-related injuries. This fall risk may be heightened by a number of factors, including alcohol intoxication. However, mechanical errors may also contribute to falls – especially when escalators suddenly speed up, slow down, or halt completely. Some of the worst escalator-related injuries occur when people fall down escalators, striking their bodies on jagged metal edges and tumbling long distances. These types of personal injuries are frequently caused by sudden changes in escalator speeds. 

Loss of Limbs

The mechanical nature of escalators can lead to the crushing, amputation, and loss of various extremities. Numerous individuals have suffered crushed fingers and feet after becoming caught in the machinery. Escalators have been known to pull people into churning, crushing machinery due to loose clothing or dangling accessories. Scarves are particularly notorious for dragging people into the machinery. In some cases, entire limbs may be lost due to these injuries. 

Fatalities

Escalator injuries can prove fatal. This may occur under a range of different circumstances, including burns, crushing injuries, falls, or a combination of many factors. In the event of a malfunctioning escalator, people may also be trampled to death by panicking, fleeing crowds. After fatal escalator accidents, Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC may be able to assist the family members of the deceased to pursue wrongful death claims against negligent parties. 

Sprains and Strains

Escalators may also cause sprains and strains. Common injuries of this nature include ankle or wrist sprains due to falls or sudden loss of balance. Although these injuries are relatively minor compared to more serious escalator accidents, they may still result in medical expenses and missed wages. According to the Mayo Clinic, a sprained ankle or wrist can take months to heal – potentially leading to thousands of dollars in missed wages. 

Who May Be Liable for Escalator Injuries?

Those who have experienced escalator-related injuries may be able to pursue compensation. One of the first steps in this process is to determine who might be liable for the injuries. There are two main possibilities.

Property Owners May Be Liable for Escalator Injuries

One option is to pursue legal action against the property owner for escalator injuries on their premises. The property owner may be liable if they failed to properly maintain the escalator. They might also face consequences if they became aware of escalator-related hazards and yet did nothing to address them. To take one hypothetical scenario as an example, the owner of a shopping mall in New Hampshire may discover that an escalator randomly accelerates a few times per day with no explanation. If the property owner ignores the issue and allows continued use, they may be liable for future injuries. 

Escalator Manufacturers May Be Liable for Escalator Injuries

Another option, depending on the circumstances of the accident, may be to pursue legal action against the manufacturer of the escalator. This strategy may come into play if the escalator has clear design or manufacturing defects. Lawsuits of this nature may fall under the general category of “strict liability,” potentially making it easier for plaintiffs to pursue legal action due to a lower burden of proof. The Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School states that in the context of strict liability, it is not necessary to prove intent or certain elements of negligence. The institute goes on to specifically mention product liability as an example of strict liability. 

Multiple Parties May Be Liable

In some cases, it may be possible to name multiple defendants after an escalator accident. If a property owner may have noticed that the escalator randomly accelerates and that random acceleration may be due to a manufacturing defect, plaintiffs may be able to pursue legal action against both the property owner and the escalator manufacturer.

Speak With a New Hampshire Personal Injury Attorney Today

While escalators have become an integral part of functional architecture, they continue to pose many hazards to average people in New Hampshire. If you have suffered escalator injuries, you have the right to discuss your legal options with an experienced personal injury attorney in New Hampshire. Reach out to Friedman & Bresaw, PLLC today at (603) 707-4800 to learn more about escalator injuries. 

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About the Attorney
Jesse Friedman

Jesse has personally represented thousands of clients throughout the State - from juvenile delinquency offenses through homicides. He has extensive trial and litigation experience and has obtained favorable outcomes for thousands of clients throughout the years.

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