Any building that is not on a single floor has an inherent risk of falls occurring from the second story, third story or higher. Generally speaking, each floor is at least 10 feet above the one below it. This means a fall to the ground from a third floor is a fall of at least 30 feet. If you whack your head on the pavement falling 30 feet you are going to be hurt.
Because of the risk of falling from a multi-story building any place whether a balcony, stairwell or other common area must have railings to prevent falls. Railings are typically attached to the building by some kind of fastening device which anchors them in place. Over time, these anchoring systems for railings begin to get loose and eventually fail.
Any time you see an older building there is some possibility that the railing systems have not been maintained and inspected properly.
The duty is on a building owner or occupier to make sure that railings are not faulty and don’t fail when somebody leans against them. The whole reason for the railing is to allow a human to hold onto the rail so that they don’t fall.
When railings fail, people who fall often suffer serious injuries like traumatic brain injuries. In 2013, a toddler who sustained a serious brain injury when he fell through a gap in the railings of a hotel balcony in Norfolk in Virginia was awarded $10.9 million.
On occasions, a railing that appears to be intact may be defective. If a visitor to a building grabs the railing and still falls because the railing lets them fall through or over it, then it is not working as designed.
Unfortunately, some apartment house owners or office building owners don’t do the kind of job they should at making sure their railings are safe. If there’s any play in the railing such that you can make it move just by touching it then it is starting to or already has reached a point of being in unsafe condition.
Repairs to deteriorating rail system anchors have to be done in a certain way. You can’t just put a Band-Aid on it. Often it will involve drilling a new hole and making sure that a new anchor system at least is good as the original one is installed so that the railing can support a person
Another issue with railings is the problem of small children and rails. As you know if you’ve had a kid and tried to baby proof your house you have to have a certain maximum distance between the slots or bars of a railing in order to prevent a little kid from slipping through.
There have been some horrible accidents like the one in Norfolk where a toddler fell multiple stories at a hotel or other business establishment because the railing system was not properly designed or installed. If a baby can stick his or her head through the two bars of a rail then it is not likely safe. All of these kinds of issues having to do with the safety of railings are typically the subject of industry standards.
Anyone owning a building that’s open to the public needs to make sure that the railings on their multiple story buildings are safe for everyone from the elderly through children and for the residents as well as visitors and even the maintenance workers of the building owner as well.
At Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers our experienced Virginia premises liability team fights for people injured at a business or apartment homes. Call us at (757) 455-0077.