Escalator Injury Risk on the Rise

Most of us in the U.S. use elevators and escalators every week, if not every day. Whether we’re at work or in a shopping mall or an amusement park or simply in the building we call hescalatorsome.

But the risk of escalators in particular seems to be on the rise, and it’s worth exploring why, particularly given that it is young children and the elderly who are most vulnerable.

As reported by the American Association for Justice, there were approximately 4,900 total reported escalator-related injuries and deaths back in 1990. But there has been a steady increase — of about 10 percent every year. By 2000, there were more than 10,000 reported escalator injuries and fatalities. By 2013, that figure had spiked to nearly 12,300. Children under 14 and seniors over the age of 65 comprised 60 percent of the injuries involved. 

You may recall the high-profile incident just last year, in which both a child’s feet became stuck at the bottom of an escalator at Universal Orlando. Power was shut off and special equipment had to be brought in to free the child. At the time, the Orlando fire chief told that, “This isn’t too uncommon. We don’t go to them every day, but we have had several escalator entrapments.”

So what’s happening?

Although entanglements are certainly a serious problem, our Miami escalator injury attorneys understand that most of these incidents are due to falls. In fact, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that the majority of fatalities involving escalators are the result of falls. Out of 27 deaths reported in a 15-year time span ending in 1999, a total of 21 were the result of falls. But we don’t hear as much about these escalator fall cases — either falls on or falls from — which tells us they are generally underrepresented in litigation.

Like so many other types of personal injury cases, industry has done a very good job of convincing the public that these sort of incidents are the fault of the person injured. There is a common narrative that is asserted in so many of these cases, and it involves accusations of horseplay, intoxication or some other type of gross misuse by the person injured. We saw the same kind of tactic play out with the McDonald’s hot coffee case. There, an elderly woman suffered horrific third-degree burns from a cup of coffee she was served at a fast-food drive-thru. She sued after finding out the company had repeatedly received warnings that the temperature of its brew was far too hot, and others had been injured before. Yet when she won $1 million (later significantly reduced) at trial, she was widely mocked because, after all, the reasoning went, she had been the clumsy one who dropped her coffee.

Back to the escalators, what often first must be overcome in escalator injury cases is the presumption of comparative fault. There is strong evidence in the form of internal manufacturer documents that suggest that the industry understands that many of these injuries are foreseeable and result from hazards that are well-known to manufacturers and property owners. What’s more, the industry has been successful in pushing back against any kind of meaningful legislation. The CPSC, for example, has proposed several times to add escalators to the list of items it regulates. However, it always bows to industry pressure, which means the only standards are set forth by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), with updates made every three years.

If you have been a victim of an escalator, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.Additional Resources:

Escalator Injuries and Deaths on the Rise, and Why Lawyers May be Overlooking Many of the Cases, Winter 2015, Products Liability Newsletter, American Association for Justice

More Blog Entries:

Fort Lauderdale Bus Accident Kills Two Car Occupants, June 30, 2016, Miami Injury Lawyer Blog