Elevators are one of the great modern conveniences, but they can and do malfunction—sometimes with deadly results. According to Consumer Watch, there are an estimated 900,000 elevators in the United States. These busy units typically carry more than 18 billion trips per year. Of course, most of these trips are performed safely, but there are approximately 27 people killed and 10,200 injured each year due to elevator accidents or malfunctions. So what should you do if an elevator malfunctions while you're in it? Here are a few tips on what you should and should not do if you are caught in a malfunctioning elevator and also some advice on what you may need to do if you should be injured.
What You Should Do If an Elevator Gets Stuck
It's not fun getting stuck in an elevator, especially if the power goes out and you're left in the dark. It can be especially frightening if you have a tendency to get claustrophobic. So what should you do if you find that you're trapped in one of these little metal boxes?
- Remain calm. This may sound obvious, but many people start to panic immediately, which can cause them not to see the obvious, which is to . . .
- Press the elevator panic, alarm, or call button or call 911 for help. Of course, in some buildings, your cell phone may not work, so you may also want to try shouting for help, as well.
- Remain where you are. According to the National Elevator Industry, you will be much better off staying in the elevator. Never attempt to climb out of a stalled elevator or exit one that has stopped between floors as you could be seriously injured or even killed if the elevator should start to move.
What Should You Do If You Are Injured
Unfortunately, there is always a chance that you or a family member may be injured while riding a malfunctioning elevator. Occasionally, these units can drop suddenly, which could cause significant injuries. People have also been injured when a door's closing mechanism has failed to rebound properly and instead shuts on a passenger's body part or when they have stepped onto an elevator that was not level with the floor and then fallen. If you are injured because of a malfunctioning elevator, it is important to contact a personal injury lawyer. Elevator injury lawsuits can be complicated, so you will need a lawyer to do the following:
- Determine who is at fault. For example, should you sue the elevator manufacturer, the property owner where the elevator is located or, perhaps, even the manufacturer of a component that may have failed and caused the malfunction? Sometimes it is hard to know. And don't be surprised if a building owner will try to shift the blame for a malfunction onto the contractor who inspects their elevators. An experienced personal injury attorney or even a traffic lawyer who is experienced in personal injury cases should be able to sort through the potential defendants and determine who may be potentially at fault in your particular situation.
- Help you obtain inspection records. Elevators should be inspected on a regular basis. According to the Technical Standards and Safety Authority, elevators should be inspected on a frequency ranging from one to three years. However, states and some cities may have their own inspection timeline. For example, in the State of Massachusetts, commercial elevators are required to undergo inspections at least once per year.
- Determine if you are entitled to other compensation, such as for emotional distress. Even if you were not injured during the incident, if you witnessed a loved one being seriously mangled or injured during an elevator accident, you may be able to sue for emotional distress.
Without proper representation, you could possibly end up pursuing a suit against the wrong party and lose out on damages that you may be entitled to.