In the US, an average of 30 people die and 17 000 are injured every year due to escalator and lift accidents, according to data provided by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
In South Africa, too, escalator and lift accidents regularly make the headlines. Sometimes, accidents are due to people using lifts or escalators inappropriately. In other cases, the blame lies squarely on the manufacturer or operator.
Incidents involving escalators and lifts in South Africa that resulted in deaths or injuries include:
* Earlier this year, an elevator cable snapped in a Doornfontein high-rise building, resulting in the death of a 40-year-old woman.
* In 2006, an escalator in Eastgate Mall in Bedfordview malfunctioned and the handrail jerked a few times before stopping. This caused three people travelling on the escalator to fall and sustain injuries.
* In 2012, a Durban girl lost three toes after her foot was caught in an escalator. Soft, flexible shoes have been associated with a number of escalator accidents worldwide. They allegedly get caught in escalator mechanisms more easily than other shoes.
* In 2007, a man fell down a lift shaft at the Wild Coast Sun Casino in Port Edward after the doors opened but the lift hadn't arrived. The man fell four storeys and sustained massive head injuries, leading to his death.
The following would be considered as negligence by a manufacturer or operator:
* A known fault in the design that wasn't corrected or recalled.
* Insufficient warning signs for realistic dangers.
* Lift doors not closing properly, or opening at inappropriate times, due to a known or preventable malfunction.
* Escalators operating with exposed mechanisms.
* Lifts and escalators being repaired without safety warnings and barriers.
* A lack of safety features, such as door sensors.
* Inconsistent or inadequate maintenance.
If a lift or escalator accident was caused by the negligence of a manufacturer or operator, you might be able to pursue a personal injury claim. You will need to collect and present clear and tangible evidence that this was the case.
Retaining the services of a personal injury attorney is the best way to make sure your case has credence before you pursue it. They can advise you on whether or not you’re likely to win your case, and their team can help you to gather and present evidence to support your claim.
If it seems you do have a case, you may be able to claim compensation for:
* Medical costs - for example, for hospital bills, ambulance fees, medication and trauma counselling.
* Future medication expenses associated with chronic injury or disability.
* Lost earnings or earning capacity.
* Pain and suffering.
Kirstie Haslam is a partner at DSC Attorneys.