While most people worry about slips and falls on escalators, "entrapment" type accidents are also very common and can lead to horrific injuries involving the loss of body parts or death. If you've been involved in this sort of escalator accident, this is what you should know when pursuing the case in court.
Escalator manufacturers are perfectly aware of the design flaws.
Studies from 1998 to the present have increasingly indicated that escalators are unsafe and need to be redesigned or retrofitted with safety measures to counter the most common problems. Agencies as far apart as the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the British Safety Assessment Federation have recognized the need for safer designs to prevent entrapment injuries.
This makes it hard for the defendants in lawsuits involving escalator accidents to deny they knew there was a significant and often preventable risk to riders.
There are several common types of entrapment injuries.
1.) Skirt panel entrapment. The most common type of entrapment injury occurs when clothing or body parts get caught between the moving step and the stationary skirt panel along the side. At best, people have had clothing ripped off. Others, particularly small children, have lost fingers and toes. In some cases, people have been strangled to death on the hoodies or scarves.
These cases are virtually indefensible because manufacturers have known since 1984 how to eliminate the gap with a protective panel -- they just haven't wanted to go to the cost.
2.) Comb plate entrapments. Another type of entrapment injury occurs at the end of the escalator ride when shoes and body parts get stuck between the moving stair and the landing plate (also called a "comb" plate). Broken or misaligned comb pieces, worn out step rollers, and gaps between the stair belt and the plate itself often lead to horrific injuries.
If you were injured this way, the defendant might claim that your footwear led to the accident -- particularly if you were wearing sandals, flip-flops, or shoes with a soft rubber sole that can easily be trapped. At least one manufacturer of a particularly popular style of foam-rubber shoes has even developed a safety awareness initiative about its shoes on escalators.
Despite that, several lawsuits have been successfully levied at the company (as have some unsuccessful ones) over the footwear and escalator injuries. If your footwear led to your accident, there are strong odds that you could end up suing both the footwear manufacturer and the owner or maker of the escalator (because the accident still couldn't occur unless the comb plate was improperly raised or maintained).
3.) Handrail entrapments. These are less common, but can be devastating because they often involve small children whose fingers and hands "follow" the moving rail and get sucked into the handrail brush. Some have even been flipped over the railing and fallen.
All modern escalators are supposed to have shut down devices. However, older escalators are often not retrofitted because of cost. Even those that do have shut down devices sometimes don't have them installed where they can be easily pushed in an emergency, or they aren't clearly marked.
Contact an attorney to discuss your case.
If you or your family member ends up in an accident on an escalator due to entrapment, you probably have a strong chance of recovery in court for your injuries. Escalators are often badly designed, poorly maintained, and not retrofitted with safety measures or shut down devices, despite the well-known dangers.
If your footwear was involved in the accident, don't assume that will get the defense off the hook - in fact, you may find that you have a viable lawsuit against the manufacturer of your footwear as well. To discuss your case in detail, talk to an attorney or law firm like Seiler & Parker PC in your area.
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