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Recent Events Highlight Elevator Dangers

Steve Wagner

In the past few days, there have been two very public elevator accidents reported heavily in the news, both resulting in death. Horrified patrons of a three-day Carnival Ecstasy Cruise happened upon a grisly scene, wherein blood still poured down the door of one of the cruise elevators. Though an investigation is ongoing, it is believed that Jose Sandoval Opazo, a 66-year old electrician was working in the elevator shaft when the elevator activated, traveling downward with a single passenger inside, and crushed Opazo between the elevator and the shaft wall.

Meanwhile in New York, 25-year old Stephen Hewett-Brown was killed after pushing a fellow passenger to safety when the elevator they were in began to fall. Hewett-Brown then attempted to move to safety and the elevator fell, trapping his body between the top of the elevator and the floor to which he was attempting an exit. Though others desperately tried to save him, the blunt trauma to his body resulted in death. Residents of the building say there have been problems with the elevator for years, and records show three active city Buildings Department violations related to elevator defects. The management company has yet to comment.

How Common Are Elevator Accidents?

Elevator accidents are more common than you would hope; however, deaths are few and far between, with around 25-30 elevator accidents causing death in the U.S. each year. Almost half of these cases involve someone stepping into an elevator shaft when there is no elevator present. Much more common are serious injuries, of which over 10,000 are reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission annually. The most frequent and most serious traumatic injuries related to elevator accidents are crushed fingers and/or hands, amputation, paralysis, and head injuries.

Who Is At Fault?

These cases can be complex, as may often be the situation with premises liability cases. There are many parties who may be responsible and each will vehemently blame the others. In the New York case above, the deceased’s family may have a wrongful death case against the property owners/management company, maintenance contractors, elevator manufacturer, and perhaps even the city, as there were several active, unresolved violations dating back well over a year. In general, building owners are most commonly held liable for elevator accidents, with cases resulting in multi-million dollar awards.

Some of the reasons attorneys find for elevator accidents include a failure to inspect or maintain the elevators, failure to adhere to building and safety codes, and products or maintenance work that are defective. This can result in elevator malfunctions such as quick stops, failure of doors to open, power failure, or issues with other elevator parts, such as sensors, pullies, cables, grinding parts, etc.

Elevator accidents are terrifying, traumatic, and confusing. If you have been injured or lost a loved one in an elevator accident, we will take every necessary step to try to ensure you are or your family is compensated in a way that aids in your emotional and physical recovery. Our Indianapolis-based personal injury attorneys have years of experience that will put your mind at ease. Call Wagner Reese now for a FREE consultation: (888) 204-8440.


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