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The Danger of Injuries from Falls Down Stairs

The danger of injuries from falls down stairs

An American Journal of Emergency Medicine article electronically shared by the National Library of Medicine in 2018 detailed how researchers had combed through 23 years worth of emergency room records.

They found that more than 24 million Americans, or the equivalent of more than a million patients annually, had been treated for stair-related injuries during that time frame. These statistics and others led them to conclude that stairs are an all-too-common source of injury and that their rates are increasing.

Why do we bring this study up?

Because the danger of injuries from falls down stairs is significant. Keep reading where we’ll detail what they are.

Injuries That Occur on Stairs

The journal article cited above touched on common injuries suffered by victims on staircases. Body parts most affected included:

  • Lower extremities (like legs, ankles, or feet): 1%
  • Head and neck: 6%

In the case of the latter, the authors suggest that children ten and under are most likely to suffer upper body injuries, such as those in staircase incidents.

In terms of specific types of injuries, that report lists the following as the most common stemming from these types of accidents:

  • Sprains and strains: 3%
  • Soft tissue injuries: 8%
  • Fractures: 3%

As for the latter, they’re most common among older individuals.

And, as lawyers who regularly handle premises liability cases like this, we find that slips and falls that occur on stairs often result in much more catastrophic injuries, including:

  • Traumatic brain injuries, including concussions, resulting from head trauma
  • Neck or back injuries leading to spinal cord damage

Causes of Stairwell Injuries

If asked about ways you believe individuals get hurt when falling down stairs, you might readily say by tumbling down the stairs after losing one’s footing. But if someone pressed for more tangible examples of contributing factors leading to someone slipping and falling, you might have a hard time listing them off.

The authors of a Purdue University study published in 2023 a list of eight risk factors for stairwell injuries, and we’ve added others to the mix that we see are often responsible for these preventable accidents. Those include:

  • Dangerously high stair risers
  • The type of footwear they’re wearing
  • Damaged stairs or stair noses
  • Whether they firmly plant their feet on the individual stairs or skip some
  • Inadequate lighting
  • A person’s use of a handrail or placement of their hands in pockets when using the staircase
  • Raised stair treads
  • Uneven stairs or stairs positioned at different heights
  • Whether someone is looking at their feet when climbing or descending the stairs
  • Low or unstable handrails
  • If someone is distracted by a conversation or their phone while using the stairwell
  • Cluttered stairwells
  • Carrying objects while climbing or coming down the stairs
  • Wet, sticky, or slippery stairs or landings
  • Unmarked stairwell closures

Actual defects, user error, and cleanliness issues aside, medical events and physical violence may also result in injuries on staircases.

Who Is Most Likely to Get Hurt?

The American Journal of Emergency Medicine study referenced above details that the two demographics most vulnerable to getting hurt on staircases are young children and older adults.

That study forwards the idea that those under age three and over 85 were the specific age brackets that tended to be most likely to suffer injuries from falls down stairs.

Data compiled as part of that earlier study reveals how those individuals aged 11 to 60 were the ones most likely to be seen in a hospital emergency room (ER) for their injuries. At least 67% of victims fall into this age range.

While young kids and the elderly are certainly at risk for having accidents on stairs, the Purdue study referenced above details how young adults, and more specifically those in their 20s, are the third-most vulnerable population to have injury accidents on stairs.

Statistics compiled for that emergency medicine journal article also show that females are more likely than males to get hurt on stairwells compared to males. The rate for those women is 46.5 per 10,000 compared to 29.1 per 10,000 for men.  Also, that study showed that at over 62%, females were more likely to go to the ER seeking treatment for their staircase-related injuries compared to men.

The data recently captured by the Purdue researchers suggests that at least 69% of subjects observed engaged in two of at least eight risky behaviors, detailed above, leading to their stairwell incident.

Women, at 80% likely, were more apt to do so, whereas only 62% of men did. The university researchers also found that women were more likely to be carrying something and not using handrails when their accident occurred.

What To Do if You Suffered Injuries on a Staircase

The most important step that you or someone you know can do if you fall down the stairs is to perform a self-assessment to determine if anything feels broken, like a leg, neck, or arm.

If there’s any chance of a fracture, you shouldn’t move, nor should you allow someone else to do so. You should instead immediately call 911 and have paramedics come to the scene. You should do the same if you feel disoriented or are experiencing significant pain, have blurry vision, and notice blood.

Also, even if you don’t feel unwell, it’s best to see a doctor to assess your condition. You may want to visit your general practitioner, an urgent care facility, or an emergency room.

If you do, be sure to let them know that you recently sustained a fall down a staircase. Be honest in letting them know how you feel as they check you out and if you’ve noticed any recent changes in your vision, speaking, thinking, or any other bodily functions or if the pain has intensified.

Any of these factors may indicate that you have internal organ damage, a bleed on the brain, or other internal injuries that can quickly spiral out of control, leaving behind irreversible damage and even claiming your life.

If you opt not to receive medical care right away, then you should monitor yourself or anyone close to you who falls, for any changes in how they feel or changes in their behaviors and seek medical attention right away if you notice anything.

These medical reports can come in handy in forwarding a personal injury case if you did suffer injuries and need to produce documentation as part of your demand package for compensation.

Also, if you haven’t done so already, you should take pictures of the stairwell in Philadelphia where the incident occurred. You should also report it to the homeowner or person in charge/manager of the school, parking garage, office building, or wherever else it happened right away so that they’ll be aware and create a report. This, too, can be valuable if you do file a claim.

Last, if you suffered serious injuries that you believe are attributable to someone else’s negligence, consider consulting with a lawyer.

At Shrager, Sachs, & Blanco, we provide free consultations during which you can discuss your potential case with an attorney and learn more about the rights Pennsylvania law affords you in situations like these.

Call our law firm to schedule that initial meeting today.



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