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Updated: 2/27/24

In Florida, if you are hurt in a fall on a stairway, or on a staircase where railings are missing or damaged, or there is inadequate lighting, and someone failed to maintain the area, then you have the elements needed to file a lawsuit to recover your damages.  If in fact the claim is sustainable (meaning, you can prove your case), the lawsuit should be filed against those who are responsible for and who are under a legal duty to inspect and maintain the property (which can include the property owner, maintenance company, management company, etc.).

What law protects you when you are injured by a stair fall in Florida?

If you or a loved one are hurt in Florida from a fall on stairs, which includes in staircases and stairwells, then you may have the right to seek compensation under Florida’s premises liability law.

If those responsible for maintaining the stairs have failed in the upkeep (for instance, not having enough lighting on the stairs) or they have failed to comply with State and Federal design regulations (like having a handrail on the stairs near the condo pool area), then Florida law provides the fall accident victim with a right to receive compensation from those who failed to meet their duty.

Recoverable damages can include:

What Do You Prove to Win a Lawsuit for Falling Down Stairs in Florida?

An injured party must prove, using admissible evidence, three elements in order to prevail in stair fall lawsuit in Florida. These three elements are:

a. the existence of a duty requiring the defendant to conform to a certain standard of conduct for the protection of others including the victim;
b. a failure on the part of the defendant to perform that duty; and
c. an injury or damage to the plaintiff caused by such failure.

To learn about the procedural steps in filing a fall related lawsuit, read our article titled: How Do I File A Slip And Fall Lawsuit?

Common Causes of Stairway Falls

Stairway falls can happen for a variety of reasons. Below are a few of the most common causes for these falls:

  • Worn Stairs – If not regularly maintained/ inspected, the slip-resistant material can wear down over time.
  • Debris on Stairs – In various locations, such as apartment buildings with staircases outside, substances such as mud and leaves can be dragged from the shoes of patrons and leave debris on the staircase.
  • Slippery Stairs – Often, invitees spill water, food, and other substances that cause the stairs to become slippery, and the maintenance crew may not clean it up in time.
  • Improper Stair Design – Uneven stair height, lack of handrails, and failure to paint a bright color on the step to warn of a change in elevation are a few signs of improper stair design.

Are Stairs Required to Have Handrails?

One safety requirement that applies to most stairs, inside and outside, is that support should be provided for the climber to hold as they climb and descend. This is done by having a secure handrail, which come in all kinds of materials (wood, metal, etc.), for the sole purpose of helping people keep their balance.

Another important regulation is that handrails should be located on all staircases that are of a certain number of stairs (in Broward County, for example, handrails are needed with a four-stair minimum – see below).

Moreover, handrails must be of a certain width, so that both children, the elderly, and adults can grab hold of the railing.

Additionally, handrails must also be of a certain height or distance from the stair footing itself. (There is a standard height for all handrails so that people can depend upon rails being at the same position, no matter the type of stairwell.)

Stair Components Are Also Regulated for Safety

Risers (the vertical part of a stair) and runs (the horizontal length of a stair) are also regulated by state and local building codes since they are integral to providing for efficient and safe movement.

Procedures to Keep Stairs Safe

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has the following suggestions for keeping stairwells and staircases safe from fall accident danger. If those responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the stairs fail to do these things, then they are arguably negligent and liable for any resulting injuries.

The CDC recommendations for maintaining stairs include:

  • Warnings on stairs with paint (bright yellow warning); warning tape; or highlight the edge (nosing) of each step, including the top and bottom.
  • Make sure treads (where you place your feet on the step) and nosing are slip resistant.
  • Keep stairs free of slippery dangers like sand, ice, and water.
  • Make sure there is enough lighting to see the stairs at night.
  • Have a handrail for any place where there are 4 steps or less.
  • Have handrails at a height of 34–38″ from the stair.

Florida Building Code Compliance; Evidence of Negligence

For example, in Broward County, the housing authority inspectors look for compliance with the following housing code regulations, among other regulations, related to stairs in a dwelling, when determining if the premises are safe and habitable:

Building Exterior

  • Porches have guardrails in accordance with building codes.
  • Stairs with four or more steps have handrails in accordance with building codes.
  • All units with pools MUST be clean, sanitary and secured by either a screen enclosure or a fence with a minimum height of 48” (4 feet). A gate latch must be equipped with a self-closing, self-latching mechanism to ensure safety.

Dwelling Unit

  • Stairs with four or more steps have handrails in accordance with building codes.

Read: How Do You Know If A Business or Property Owner Acted Reasonably In Trying To Prevent A Stairway Slip and Fall Accident?

What Should You Do?

A good piece of advice if you have been harmed by a fall on a staircase, is to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer before you file a claim to learn about some of the issues that can arise with these lawsuits, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim during litigation and the type and amount of damages you can recover. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in-person) to answer your questions.

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Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.

 

 

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