Skip to main content

Elevator & Escalator Injuries

Maryland Elevator / Escalator ProblemDid you ever go up to the top of Baltimore’s Transamerica Tower? At 40 floors, it’s the tallest building in the city, followed by the Bank of America, Schaefer Tower, One South Street, and Marriott Waterfront Hotel, all with more than 30 floors. How do workers and visitors reach the top floors? By elevator, of course, and without a thought to their risk of injury.

Ever ride the Baltimore Metro Subway or the DC Metro? Millions of people descend escalators every day of the year to get to their station, oblivious to the dangers inherent in this mode of “vertical transportation.”

More than 17,000 people are injured each year in elevator and escalator accidents, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, and dozens are killed. When innocent riders are harmed because of negligence on the part of property owners or managers, maintenance or inspection crew, designers or manufacturers, they can be held liable in civil actions.

In fact, sources estimate that 2,200 personal injury actions involving elevators or escalators are filed each year nationwide. For more information about how you can recover damages for a Baltimore or Washington, DC elevator or escalator accident, contact Steve Heisler, The Injury Lawyer, at (410) 625-4878 or use the convenient online contact form.

Going Up?

Even if your destination is on the third floor rather than the thirtieth floor, you’re likely to take the elevator. And the elevator need not be in a public high-rise… it could be in a medical complex or a school. It could even be in a beachfront vacation house.

Wherever the elevator is installed, it can be subject to certain conditions that spell danger. Typical causes of elevator accidents are:

  • Rapid fall due to pulley malfunction
  • Failure to block off an open shaft during repairs
  • A wiring defect
  • Lack of proper maintenance
  • Deficient or delayed inspection
  • Improper leveling
  • Dangerous design.

Who is At Risk for Injury?

While anyone riding on an elevator has a chance of being in an accident, certain individuals are most at risk — and that’s the workmen who install, repair or maintain these vertical transportation systems.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, elevator installers and repairers have the sixth-highest rate of work-related deaths of all construction trades.

Injuries in elevator accidents may be caused by tripping when the car and floor don’t line up properly; being hit by closing elevator doors; falling down an elevator shaft; or being crushed between a car and the upper or lower level.

A tragic incident in November of 2013 illustrates the unforeseen hazards of even a simple residential elevator. Jordan Nelson, of Baltimore, was on a family vacation in Murrells Inlet, South Carolina, staying in a beach house which was equipped with a residential elevator. The design of the unit allowed it to be operated with the car gate open. With the curiosity of a typical 10-year-old, Jordan leaned forward to look over the edge of the car platform as it was rising, not realizing that he would soon be hitting the underside of the floor above. His head and neck became trapped under the platform as the car continued to rise to the third floor. Jordan suffered broken bones, catastrophic brain injury and paralysis. His family has sued the rental property’s owners and management company and the elevator manufacturer.

Going Down?

The frequency of injury on escalators is 15 times higher than on elevators. And while we in the Baltimore/DC metropolitan area are accustomed to seeing escalators on our subway systems, escalators are also common in shopping malls, airports, sports venues, parking garages and museums.

An escalator accident may result from:

  • Malfunction
  • Missing stair teeth
  • Poor maintenance
  • Poor design
  • Worn parts.

Although the above factors can cause injury to riders of any age, children and older adults are also at a higher risk of escalator injury.

Baltimore Escalator Accidents

The Baltimore area has seen its share of horrifying escalator accidents. One many people will remember is the 1964 tragedy before an Orioles game at the old Memorial Stadium. Hundreds of free tickets had been given out to school patrol kids who were crowding on to the 48 feet of sharp metal stair treads moving at 120 feet per minute. The problem was, a metal gate had been left at the top of the escalator, allowing only one person to get off at a time. Children began falling back on top of one another, piling up as the escalator kept running. An usher finally found the shut-off switch, which had been moved to a wall across from the escalator. One girl was killed in the accident and 46 were injured, some seriously.

Even though many decades have passed since then, escalator accidents continue to be in the news.

  1. A 2002 accident at the JC Penney store in Columbia, Maryland, killed a store clerk whose head became wedged between the escalator handrail and a nearby display. A lawsuit sought damages from the designer, builder and architect responsible for the area around the escalator.
  2. In July 2012, a 14-year-old boy was on the escalator at the Washington Metro Smithsonian station when his shoe became stuck at the end of the escalator. When he tried to free it, his hand got stuck. The escalator was shut down and crews worked for 30 minutes to free the child, who was hospitalized in stable condition.
  3. The next month, five DC Metro passengers were injured at the L’Enfant Plaza station when a person’s bag or piece of clothing got snagged in a metal side panel, causing the panel to rip off. Three of the injured riders were taken to the hospital. An investigation found that an oily and worn brake pad, coupled with a heavy passenger load, caused the accident. A separate consultant’s report found that Metro was not following its own maintenance standards; failed to clean escalator switches, debris and water in and around the escalators; and lacked a sufficient number of supervisors.
  4. A Montreal subway station was the scene of a horrific accident in January 2014. A woman’s scarf got caught in the escalator; when she bent down to free it, her hair became entangled in the mechanism. She died of strangulation. “The landing plate in the combs at the bottom are supposed to back up when a certain force is engaged,” an escalator contractor said in news reports. “These escalators stop all the time, usually jammed with rocks or stones in the winter, or if teens jump on the steps with great force.”
  5. Similarly, an 88-year-old woman was strangled in March 2012 on a Long Island Rail Road escalator. The elderly woman fell and her clothes became entangled in the treads of the moving stairs.

Pertinent Facts & Figures

The Washington DC Metro system has the most elevators (275 in stations and parking garages) and escalators (613) of any transit system in North America.

Washington Metro’s Wheaton station has the longest continuous escalator in the Western hemisphere, at 230 feet.

The escalator at the DC Metro Rosslyn station is so long that a ride between the street level and the mezzanine level takes nearly two minutes.
Some of the conveyances in the Metro system are more than 30 years old.

Help for Victims of Elevator & Escalator Accidents

Whether you or your loved one was hurt when using a subway escalator to get to work or in an elevator in a hotel or vacation property, the Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler can help you seek compensation from the responsible parties. For more than 25 years Steve has focused his efforts on protecting the rights of Marylanders who are injured by the negligence of others. If you have suffered in an elevator or escalator accident in Maryland or the District of Columbia, call The Injury Lawyer, (410) 625-4878, for compassionate, competent representation.

Attorney Steve Heisler

Steve Heisler decided in 1996 that he was going to focus his law practice exclusively on injury cases. Since then, he has been representing injured people against insurance companies, disreputable medical practitioners and Big Pharma, and doing it with compassion, honesty and level-headed rationality. [ Attorney Bio ]