Commonly found in many busy places such as shopping malls, airports, hotels, arenas, stadiums, department stores and train stations, escalators are a part of many people’s daily routines. While they may seem like a safe way to go from one floor to the next, escalators can be very dangerous machines. Children and older adults are particularly vulnerable to escalator accidents, though anyone could suffer serious injuries from a dangerous escalator.
Escalator injuries are a deep concern for the attorneys at Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C. We recently secured a $15 million settlement for the family of a 13-year-old girl who sustained traumatic injuries when her foot became stuck in an elevator that had been in use since 1958 at a Macy’s store in Garden State Plaza.
Our client was far from being the only person who has suffered an escalator accident. In fact, one day before her accident, another customer’s shoe was entrapped by the very same escalator. National statistics show that escalator accidents are tragically common. For example:
You are more than just a statistic if you have been seriously injured on an escalator. The attorneys at Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C., are ready to listen to you describe what happened in detail during a free claim analysis. We will then give you advice about your legal options.
For more than three decades, we have used our legal experience and resources to help injured people. Contact us now to find out how we can help you.
How to Spot a Dangerous Escalator
Escalators are not toys. They are very dangerous pieces of equipment that should be treated with respect and caution.
There are several common types of escalators, including:
- Crisscross layout
- Multiple parallel layout
- Parallel layout
Regardless of the type of escalator you encounter, there are some warning signs of a dangerous escalator that you should be able to recognize. If you notice any of the following, do not ride the escalator:
- Odd sounds. It is important to listen to the escalator. If you hear any grinding, screeching, thumping, or any other unusual sounds, chances are there is a safety issue.
- Gaps and spaces. Do you see any wide spaces between the steps? If so, then anything can get caught in them – especially hands and feet.
- Missing foot brush. These brushes are installed to promote passenger safety by guiding passengers’ feet away from the skirt panels. When passengers stand too close to the skirt, they should feel the bristles and know to move away from the sides. If there is no foot brush, riders may not realize how close they are to the side, and there is a greater risk of injury.
- Smooth risers. All escalator steps should be smooth and contain no bumps. If there is any friction, there is a greater chance that soft rubber sneakers and shoes will become trapped.
- Missing comb plates. A comb plate is located on the bottom and top landings of the escalator. All of the teeth should be perfectly aligned. If any are missing, it greatly increases the chance of entrapment and injury.
- Missing escalator steps. There should never be any part of the escalator step missing. Each part of the step – the top and the sides – should be intact and sturdy, never loose or shaky.
Common Types of Escalator Accidents
This is the most common type of escalator accident, and often leads to severe injury. Though many factors can cause a person to lose their balance and fall, many accidents occur due to alcohol intoxication or improper use of the escalator. Misuse of an escalator includes sitting on the handrail, trying to run in the opposite direction the escalator is moving, leaning over the sides, not having a firm grip, and so on. The elderly are also more prone to slipping. Typically, falls occur between the escalator itself and the adjacent wall. A property owner, design engineer, architect or other responsible party may be liable for failing to provide sufficient guards.
Side of Step Entrapment
This is the second most frequent escalator accident, and occurs when there is excess space between what is known as the skirt and step. Any item that is caught in that space – a finger, a shoe, an article of clothing – can get caught in the mechanism and result in catastrophic injury. This usually occurs when a person is standing too close to the sides, which is why it is so important to stand in the center of the step. Children sometimes get curious and can stick their fingers into the gap, which may result in amputation. Though rare, there have even been instances when an article of clothing becomes stuck, and causes the individual to choke to death.
Comb Plate Entrapment
These entrapments occur at either the very top or bottom of the escalators, when body parts or shoes become wedged in the moving stair and the stationary comb plate. These incidents are very common among children, and can result in loss of body parts or disfigurement. Missing comb teeth can increase the risk of entrapment. It’s important to always step over the comb when entering and exiting the escalator, because even an intact comb plate can consume a shoe. It is also important to try to avoid wearing foam or plastic shoes, such as flip-flops and Crocs, on escalators.
Like the other types of entrapments, handrail injuries occur when clothing or body parts get trapped between the moving handrail and its guide. Injuries can range from minor, involving pain from pinching, to very serious. Entrapment can also occur at the handrail brush, creating severe injuries. Small children are more prone to this, as they sometimes “follow” the rail around the curved newel and get their hand sucked in. There have even been cases where a child has been “cartwheeled” over the end of the escalator and flung onto the floor.
Broken or Missing Step Injuries
These accidents are not very common, but when they occur, they usually cause the most severe injuries or death. If a step breaks or falls out of the return strand, there is a tremendous risk of blunt-force trauma to anyone who may be caught in the middle of it. Though newer models have been designed in an attempt to reduce these risks, not all existing escalators have been upgraded for safety. Misaligned steps can lead to the formation of protruding metal fragmentation, which can produce deadly results.
There have been instances when an escalator suddenly changes direction without warning. In 2005, over 70 children were hurt when an escalator in a theater suddenly stopped and shifted backwards. This can lead to fall injuries and overcrowding, but it can also lead to panic and stampedes, with patrons jumping off the escalator mid-ride. If too many people try to hastily run on or off the escalator when it is stopped, it can cause the stairs to buckle, which, in a worst-case scenario, can lead to a collapse.
What to Do in an Escalator Emergency
Should you find yourself in an escalator-related emergency, follow these steps:
- Should the escalator abruptly stop, keep a firm grip on the handrails.
- NEVER jump off the escalator or over the side.
- Do not start yelling or screaming. This could incite mass panic.
- Walk – never run – toward the safest exit off of the escalator.
- Once off the escalator, keep moving. Never dawdle or stop near the exits, as this could cause injury to yourself or someone else.
In the event of injury:
- Call 911 and immediately seek medical attention.
- Report the injury to the facility’s security or management.
- Get the contact information for all witnesses.
- Write down the name of the employees who are present at the scene or who take the report.
- With your cell phone, take photos and/or videos of the escalator, showing any apparent defect.
- Report the incident to the police or town building department.
- Consult an experienced personal injury attorney at Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C., to preserve evidence and investigate your potential claim.
- Do not agree to give a recorded statement until advised to do so by a lawyer.
11 Things You Can Do to Help Prevent an Escalator Accident
- Before getting on an escalator, always locate the emergency shut-off button.
- Make sure shoelaces are tied. A loose shoelace can easily get stuck in between the kick plate.
- Stand in the center of an escalator, never hang over the side. If riding with a child, make sure to have a firm grip on either the child’s hand or shoulders.
- Always face forward. Never lean your back against the side because articles of clothing or body parts can become stuck.
- Never take strollers, wheelchairs, carts, walkers, large pieces of luggage, bikes, etc. on an escalator. Find an elevator instead.
- Dogs, cats, and all other animals should be held. Paws and tails easily become entrapped.
- In case of an unexpected stop, have a firm grasp on the handrails to avoid falling or tripping.
- Do not allow a child to play, sit, run, or jump on the escalator.
- When stepping onto and off of the escalator, be sure to step over the comb plate.
- Step off the escalator and leave the area. Never stop, as others may be right behind you.
- Never ride an escalator if you’re under the influence of anything. This greatly increases the risk of injury or death.
Legal Help for People Hurt on Dangerous Escalators in New Jersey
The personal injury attorneys at Davis, Saperstein & Salomon, P.C., have more than 30 years of experience representing people hurt in accidents in New Jersey. We will work aggressively to help you secure the compensation you deserve from the parties at fault for your escalator accident.
If you or a loved one has been injured on an escalator and you believe someone else was responsible, contact us today for a free initial consultation at 800-LAW-2000 or by using our online contact form.
- AAJ – Escalator Injuries and Deaths On the Rise, and Why Lawyers May be Overlooking Many of the Cases
- CPSC – Know the Steps to Safety When Using Escalators, Some shoes more likely than others to pose risk