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Updated: 2/9/23

In Florida, if you are hurt in a fall on a stairway, or on a staircase where railings are missing or damaged, and if the condition that caused the accident exists because of the failure to upkeep and maintain the area, then you have the necessary elements to sustain a claim for damages.  If in fact, the claim is sustainable (meaning, you can prove your case), the claim should be made 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.).

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.

Federal & State Laws

There are federal regulations (see, e.g., 24 Code of Federal Regulations Part 982; Sections 404, 405 and 406) as well as state and county regulations that apply here. These regulations are all designed to keep people safe as they walk up and down stairs since stairs and stairwells are recognized as inherently risky walking areas.

Losing your balance is one of the main reasons that people fall on stairs. As a result, regulations were enacted imposing safety requirements on all stairwells and staircases that help to maintain balance and to prevent falls.

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 federal regulation and 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.

Stairs Requirements: Building Code of Broward County, Florida

According to the Broward County Housing Authority, housing inspectors will 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

  • The roof, gutter, fascia, and foundation wall are all structurally sound and weather tight.
  • 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

  • Walls are clean, painted and free from holes, peeling, chipping, or loose paint.
  • The unit is free of any trash or debris.
  • 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?

Premises Liability Claim for Stair Falls in Florida

If you or a loved one are hurt in a fall on a staircase or stairwell here in Florida, then you may have a personal injury claim for damages 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 6 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 (damages can include medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost earning capacity and the loss of the enjoyment of life).

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 claims, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim 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.



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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