Claims for escalator and lift injuries in South Africa

escalator injury
17 Jul 2023

You might be unaware of the safety risks each time you step on an escalator or in a lift. Unfortunately, escalator and lift injuries are surprisingly common.

Each year, more than 30 people die and 17,000 are injured in the United States, for instance, following accidents on escalators and lifts. The incidence of accidents reported in South Africa is equally distressing.

How do injuries occur?

Injuries sometimes occur when people use escalators and lifts incorrectly. In many cases, however, the manufacturer or operator is directly responsible for the accident, especially when lifts and escalators are not properly maintained.

Injuries commonly occur when lift doors close on people, a lift drops or ascends quickly, or an escalator stops abruptly.

If there has been negligence by the manufacturer or operator, personal injury claims for escalator and lift injuries can be made.

Examples of escalator and lift accidents in South Africa

Below are details of just some of the reported cases of escalator and lift injuries and deaths in South Africa.

Recent incidents

In 2022, a child suffered serious injuries after falling down a lift shaft. The doors of the lift shaft had not been closed following maintenance work.

In the same year, a 10-year-old girl died after falling three floors down a lift shaft in the building where her family lived in Roodepoort.

In 2019, a woman died after suffering fatal head injuries when a lift in an apartment building ascended quickly from the 16th to 26th floor in Doornfontein, Johannesburg.

Earlier incidents

Since 2010, a number of deaths and injuries have occurred due to escalator or lift accidents.

In 2015, for example, a boy suffered serious injuries when his foot was trapped between the step of an escalator and the fixed adjacent side wall at the Gateway Theatre of Shopping in Umhlanga.

In 2012, a lift technician died after being crushed while repairing a lift in a hotel in oThongathi. In a separate incident, a six-year-old girl lost part of her foot after it was caught in an escalator at the Southcoast shopping mall in KwaZulu-Natal.

In 2010, a 15-year-old boy suffered spinal injuries after a lift at the Wild Coast Sun in Port Edward plummeted two floors. In 2007, at the same hotel, a man died after falling four floors down an empty lift shaft. The lift doors opened and the man stepped in, but the lift hadn’t arrived.

Types of escalator and lift injuries

Accidents can lead to escalator and lift injuries that are minor or life-threatening. They can happen without a serious technical problem, such as a lift door malfunction that traps a body part or catches an item of clothing.

However, major technical issues, such as the lift dropping or ascending quickly, can lead to serious injuries, such as head trauma and broken bones. These injuries can be fatal or life-altering.

Lift passengers can also suffer extreme emotional distress, inducing anxiety and claustrophobia, if they’re trapped in a stalled lift. Extracting someone from a lift stuck between floors is also very dangerous.

On escalators, it’s common for passengers to trip and fall when clothing gets caught in escalator parts. These accidents can lead to head injuries, bruising, lacerations and broken bones.

If an escalator stops suddenly, a person could lose their balance and fall, leading to broken bones, scrapes, bruising and head trauma.

Do you have a personal injury claim?

If you experience injuries as a result of an accident in a lift or on an escalator that was caused by negligence, you may have grounds for a personal injury claim.

If your legal team can prove any of the following negligent actions, you may be able to make a personal injury claim against a manufacturer or operator:

  • inadequate and irregular maintenance
  • repairs without safety warnings and barriers
  • a design fault that wasn’t corrected or recalled
  • exposed mechanisms on escalators
  • inadequate warning signs of danger
  • a preventable malfunction causing lift doors to close or open at the wrong time
  • no safety features, such as door sensors.

If your legal team presents a successful case, you may be able to claim for medical costs (hospital bills, ambulance fees, medication and trauma counselling), future medication expenses for chronic injury or disability, loss of earnings and earning capacity, pain and suffering.

To win a claim, you must be able to collect and present clear and tangible evidence of negligence in the form of engineering reports, medical reports, expert and witness statements.

The best way to achieve this is to retain the services of a personal injury attorney. They will advise you on the merits of your case and whether you’re likely to win.

Your lawyer will also help you gather and present the essential evidence needed to support your claim.

The first step for people wanting to make claims for escalator and lift injuries in South Africa is to contact a suitably experienced legal firm. DSC Attorneys is a personal injury law firm with extensive expertise in handling claims for escalator and lift injuries. Contact the firm for the best possible legal advice and representation.

See also:

(This article is provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. For more information on the topic, please contact the author/s or the relevant provider.)
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