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Why Does New York City Seem To Have So Many Elevator Accidents?

Despite the lack of any centralized reporting system for calculating elevator accident statistics, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 27 people die every year in elevator accidents. While any number of deaths is a terrible statistic, it is important to remember that elevators in the United States make approximately 18 billion passenger trips every year, so some distress is expected on an annual basis. But why do these accidents happen, and why do they seem to happen so often in New York City?

Elevator warning sign


New York City Elevator Accidents And Deaths

In 2010, there were 53 elevator accidents reported among the 60,000 elevators in New York City. When you compare the number of incidents in New York City to the number that happens around the rest of the country, it becomes obvious that more accidents occur in New York City than almost any place else.

In July 2017, five people were injured in one morning in two separate New York City elevator accidents. In one of the accidents, utility workers were stuck in an elevator that malfunctioned and plummeted 200 feet straight down until it eventually came to a stop. In the other accident, a maintenance lift fell on a worker, causing serious injuries.

The common thread that seems to run through many of these accidents is elevator shaft issues. At first, it can seem confusing to look at the seemingly increased number of elevator shaft accidents in New York City and try to figure out why these accidents happen. But when you look at the numbers and the situations in New York City that invite these kinds of problems, it becomes easier to understand why so many elevator accidents, along with injuries and deaths, occur in the city.

Elevator Malfunctions That Lead To Injuries

Elevator accidents occur for a wide variety of reasons. Aside from user error or people seeking a thrill trying to use an elevator in a manner, it was not designed for, some of the more common reasons for elevator failures include:

  • The pulley system malfunctioning if it is not properly maintained
  • Elevator shafts are sometimes left open during maintenance and people not paying attention falling into them
  • Faulty wiring can cause an elevator to malfunction
  • An unbalanced elevator not properly lining up with each floor causing tripping accidents

These instances account for many of the elevator deaths and accidents in New York City, but a surprising number of these accidents occur on construction sites. When we look at the numbers for construction safety in New York, it becomes evident why so many elevator accidents happen in the Big Apple.

Construction Deaths And Accidents Linked To Elevators

The first commercially available passenger elevator in the world was installed in 1857 in New York City. Since then, the number of public passenger elevators in New York City has grown to 66,602 and counting. When a building is built or renovated in New York, it is almost impossible to exclude elevator construction or renovation from the conversation. With so many of New York’s elevators being worked on year after year, it is not a surprise that many of the elevator accidents we hear about are from construction or renovation job sites.

From June 2014 to June 2015, New York City experienced a jump in construction accidents of 53 percent. From 2011 to 2014, the average number of construction deaths in New York City was 5.5 per year. In 2015, that number nearly doubled to 10. Along with this rise in construction accidents came a rise in the construction activity in and around New York. While this sounds good for the New York economy, the rise in construction activity has also led to a rise in safety violations.

Construction Safety Is In Trouble

According to the New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH), 90 percent of the job sites where construction accidents occurred had been cited for serious OSHA safety violations. As the number of jobs in New York City continues to grow, so will the instances of safety violations that could lead to serious injuries or even death.

With elevators being an overwhelmingly common fixture in New York City construction projects, the idea that construction workers could be injured or killed in elevator shaft accidents is expected. Since the number of elevators in New York tends to be higher than most other cities in the country, there is plenty of opportunity for people to get injured while working in or on elevator shafts.

What Should I Do If I Am Injured In An Elevator?

If you are lawfully on a premises, private or public, and you are injured in an elevator due to someone else’s negligence then your situation falls under a part of personal injury law called premises liability. If you are a welcomed or expected guest of the premises owner and their negligence caused your injury, then you can sue in order to get compensation for your injuries.

For example, if you are in a retail department store during business hours and the elevator fails because it was not properly maintained, then you have a case to recover compensation for your injuries. However, if you are on a private property that is clearly marked as being private and you try to utilize the property’s faulty elevator, then you have less of a case.

With personal injury law, there is always a gray area that can be explored with every new case. For example, if you broke into a retail department store to rob it after business hours and the elevator injured you because it was not properly maintained, then you still might have a case for compensation. The important thing to do when you have been injured in an elevator accident is to get immediate medical assistance, and then contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible.

Elevators Can Rarely Be Avoided In The City

Few cities in the United States have the documented love affair with elevators that New York City does. The first public elevator was installed in New York City, and that one elevator has grown to over 66,000 that service nearly nine million people per day. When you have that many people riding on elevators each day, something is bound to happen.

Elevator accidents increase when property owners do not do their jobs and maintain their elevators properly. Since elevators are so commonly used in New York City, it is important that every property owner does their due diligence and makes sure that their elevators are periodically inspected and maintained. Since that does not happen as it should, there are accidents.

Elevator shafts

Construction in New York City is on the rise, and that means that there will inevitably be more construction safety violations throughout the city. Elevators are a part of just about every new construction and renovation project in the city, which means that there are plenty of opportunities for construction workers to get injured falling down old or new elevator shafts. It happens every year, yet year after year there is never an emphasis on preventing these types of accidents.

If you are ever injured in a New York City elevator, then you should seek out medical attention immediately. Once you are taken care of, your next step is to seek out a knowledgeable attorney who can help you to find out what happened to cause your accident, and what can be done to get you the compensation you deserve and get back on your feet and back to your life.

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