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Assessing Elevator Accident Causes in New York

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New Investigation in NYC Cites Mechanic Errors, Poor Training, and Inspection Failures As Primary Causes of Elevator Accidents

Generally speaking, elevator accidents resulting in serious personal injuries are rare. An article in the Los Angeles Times explained that there are approximately 18 billion passenger trips on elevators across the country every year, and on average, there are only about 27 fatalities per year as a result of an elevator accident. To put that number in perspective, a person who rides an elevator only has a 0.00000015% chance of suffering a deadly injury from an elevator accident.

However, elevator accidents do happen, and 27 deaths annually is not a number that should be dismissed. According to a recent report in The Real Deal: New York Real Estate News, a new investigation shows that most elevator accidents in NYC and elsewhere are preventable given that they result from human error.

What causes most New York elevator deaths? According to the New York elevator report, mechanics’ errors, inspection mistakes (in which inspectors fail to properly identify safety hazards), and poor training of mechanics and inspectors alike result in most elevator accidents in NYC and throughout the U.S. For anyone who has been involved in or has witnessed an elevator accident in NYC or somewhere else, elevator safety is a matter to be taken extremely seriously. As the report explains, a New York elevator accident in Williamsburg, Brooklyn in late 2015 resulted in a person’s death after the elevator’s “ceiling landed on him, crushing his head and torso.” That New York elevator death occurred in a luxury building after complaints had been filed about the elevator and inspectors determined that there was “nothing wrong” with the elevator.

As the elevator accident report emphasizes, many elevator accident lawsuits and injury reports are filed each year in New York. Acknowledging these complaints and questions concerning fault, The Real Deal conducted an investigation, ultimately determining that “lapses by mechanics with little training, and failure by inspectors to identify hazards, address complaints, and conduct inspections . . . have impeded the safety of the city’s elevators.” In some instances, The Real Deal investigation found evidence that beyond failure to inspect in NY, elevator inspectors also falsified reports.

The New York elevator death and injury investigation also underscored that landlords and property managers are part of the problem. About half of all elevator penalties give to those landlords and property managers remain unpaid, but they have not faced any repercussions. In the last nine years, 22 people have suffered fatal injuries in New York elevators, and 500 total elevators accidents have occurred.

Tips for Staying Safe and Avoiding Accidents on and Around Elevators

The National Elevator Industry provides some of the following tips for staying safe on and around elevators:

  • Know if you have a health condition that could lead to a fall while getting into an elevator;
  • Always stand clear of the elevator doors;
  • Do not try to squeeze into a full car—wait for the next elevator to arrive;
  • Never try to stop closing doors;
  • Avoid an elevator and take the stairs if there is a fire or another safety situation;
  • Watch your step as you are getting into the elevator;
  • When exiting an elevator, immediately exit the car and move away from the doors;
  • Never attempt to climb out of a stalled elevator;
  • If an elevator stops or there is an emergency, remain inside the elevator and use the “alarm” or “help” button to seek assistance.

Were you or a loved one involved in an elevator accident? You should discuss your case with an elevator accident attorney to learn more about your options.

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