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Stair injuries in California common for all ages

Between the years 1990 and 2012, over 25 million Americans went to the ER reporting stairway injuries. A study in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine has analyzed the records of these ER visits and come to several conclusions.

Two-thirds of the patients were between the ages of 11 and 60, leaving in the minority those who are most susceptible to injury, such as young children and the elderly. Over 60% of the time, patients did not assign a cause to their accident while 23% said they tripped, slipped or made a misstep.

About 60% of the accidents occurred at home. Some safety building professionals believe that this prevalence is due to a double standard in stairway construction, where stairways for homes are built to lower standards.

The authors of the study call for a revision of building codes and an updating of current stairways so that the dimensions of the vertical and horizontal surface are more uniform. They also encourage property owners to ensure adequate lighting, avoid clutter and slippery surfaces, and install rails that allow the entire hand to grasp it. The top step should also have a nosing; otherwise, the stairway may not be visible to some.

If someone incurred an injury on a public stairway, he or she may be eligible for damages under premises liability law. For instance, the property owner could be held liable for not warning others about a wet surface or for having stairs that don't accord with building codes. Under comparative negligence, however, the victim may be partly to blame. He or she may have been carrying objects that obstructed the view, for example. This is why victims should have a lawyer assess the validity of their claim. A lawyer will also handle negotiations with the other party's insurance company.

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