Queller, Fisher, Washor, Fuchs & Kool, L.L.P.

Elevator Accidents

At Queller, Fisher, Washor, Fuchs & Kool, our elevator accident lawyers handle elevator accident cases which result in serious injury or death to passengers, building employees, custodial staff, emergency safety workers and elevator maintenance and inspection personnel. We have the resources and experience necessary to secure fair compensation for individuals who have suffered an unnecessary injury.

How Elevators Work

There are two types of elevators that are used in common passenger travel. These include hydraulic elevators and cable elevators.

Elevator Doors Hydraulic elevators are not commonly seen in buildings more than a few stories tall due to the need to position the mechanics farther underground for each story the elevator will need to be raised. 1 A non-compressible fluid is pump into a cylinder to raise a piston, and thus raise the elevator car. These elevators are more expensive in their energy use. They also have less safety equipment than cable elevators.

Cable elevators are the much more common type of elevator in New York. All of the machinery is in a machine room at the top of the elevator shaft. The elevator is attached by cable to a sheave in the machine room. The sheave, which is similar to a pulley, is turned by an electric motor to raise or lower the elevator. A counterweight is attached to the cable opposite the side of the elevator car. The counterweight is equal to the elevator's weight at 40% load. This allows the elevator to be moved using very little energy, because the counterweight keeps the weight at the tipping point.

A common misconception is that elevator deaths occur from an elevator falling. However, in reality, improper maintenance can cause the counterweight to drop and launch the elevator car upwards. Improper maintenance can lead to a number of other injuries.

All cable elevators include a governor that controls the maximum speed of the descent. However, it is possible for the governor to fail due to improper maintenance. Additionally, they must include a level of shock absorption at the bottom of the elevator shaft.

Common Elevator Accidents

Elevator Electrical Connection The common types of elevator injury causes include elevator misleveling, the doors closing on a passenger, and the elevator falling a distance and making an abrupt stop. 2 Additionally, there is a risk of an open shaft fall due to the doors opening when the cart is not at the stop, control malfunction or electrocution due to faulty wiring, or entrapment due to heat from fire or water from emergency sprinklers. 3 About 27 people are killed in elevator accidents each year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the CPSC. New York City historically has a higher incidence of elevator related injuries and deaths than the rest of the country.

Misleveling is when the elevator does not stop at an equal height to the building floor. This can cause a ledge of inches, or even feet, which is a tripping hazard during exit, or a fall hazard while entering. A misleveled stop should not occur when an elevator is maintained properly. Problems with the leveling mechanics of the elevator can include an error with the automatic leveling system, opening the doors too early during the landing approach, brake problems, or incorrect electrical current. Our experts will determine the cause of the misleveling in order to discover who is at fault in your injury.

Injuries from elevator doors can occur from the elevator door closing too quickly, catching a passenger or an article of clothing from a passenger. These door strike cases occur when there is negligent maintenance of the sensors that reopen the elevator door if the edges hit an object, or negligent maintenance of the sensors that detect when there is something in the path of the door.

Injuries from sudden stops occur when a passenger hits the floor or walls of the elevator cart due to the sudden deceleration. This can be caused by a malfunctioning governor, frayed, bunched, or detached cables, electronic failure, brake failure, or elevator overload. Due to the many possible causes it can be difficult for an expert to determine the cause of the malfunction. Our highly qualified experts will find the indicators of any negligence that led to a malfunction and injury.

Elevator Standards

Elevator Repair Elevators and Hoists must be maintained according to The American Society of Mechanical Engineers' standards and specifications, ASME A17. Additionally, New York City has its own regulations set out by New York City, N.Y., Code § 27-982 to § 27-1005. If you have been injured due to improper maintenance of an Elevator, you may have a case for negligence against the managing agent of the building or the maintenance company for the elevator. The more a system is automated, the lower the chance of human error causing an issue, and the greater likelihood of negligence in maintenance or repair.

Elevators in New York City must follow set guidelines in the manner and timing of their inspections. These include a Category 1 test each year, a Category 3 test every 3 years for hydraulic elevators, and a Category 5 test every 5 years. 4 These inspections must be done by an approved elevator inspection agency and witnessing agency. 5 Any defects found during a Category 1 inspection must be fixed within (120) days of finding, except hazardous issues must be fixed immediately. Failure to complete these inspections within the specified time frame, and failure to correct issues found during the inspections can result in a case of negligence against the building manager. Failure to discover issues during the inspection can lead to negligence on the part of inspecting agency, or the building manager.

Elevator Safety

Elevators by design and installation must include certain safety features in New York City. These include a fire resistance of greater than one and a half hours, impact resistance, and if the inside is not fully visible, a mirror to allow a passenger to see the inside before getting in. Additionally, all Elevators installed must include a Governor or Otis system, as well as some form of impact buffer at the bottom of the shaft. However, failure of these systems is possible due to negligent inspection or maintenance. 6

Elevator Accident Compensation

If you or someone you love has suffered an injury in an elevator accident, you may be entitled to compensation. For a free consultation with our New York personal injury attorneys, please call 212.406.1700 or contact us online. Our cases are taken on a contingency-fee basis. If we accept your case, there is no fee unless we recover damages for you.

Information about how elevators work is from:

  1. How Elevators Work - HowStuffWorks
  2. Kevin D. Caton, J.D., 127 Am. Jur. Trials 1 (Originally published in 2012)
  3. Elevators - Consumer Watch
  4. New York City, N.Y., Code § 27-998
  5. New York City, N.Y., Rules, Tit. 1, § 103-02
  6. New York City, N.Y., Code § 27-987
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