Escalator Injury: What To Know

March 31, 2024

By Promoting Justice

Escalators are common across numerous locations, ranging from shopping malls and department stores to train stations and airports. Although they make it far easier to traverse different floors, escalators occasionally malfunction and cause serious injuries. According to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), escalator-related incidents cause approximately 10,000 emergency room visits each year in the United States. Read more about these accidents, and call (802) 457-4848 to find out how a personal injury attorney from Shillen Mackall Seldon & Spicer may be able to assist you if you have sustained an escalatory injury.

What Is an Escalator Injury?

Escalators are moving staircases. They use motorized chains of linked steps to transport individuals between floors. They can transport large groups of people at once, and they can operate either indoors or outdoors. Individuals may continue to use escalators as standard stairs during inoperative periods, and buildings may use them in addition to or instead of elevators. Common locations for escalators include: 

  • Hotels
  • Stadiums
  • Department stores
  • Shopping malls
  • Train stations
  • Airports
  • Public buildings
  • Convention centers

Escalator injuries can be due to human error or mechanical failure. Regardless of whether the escalator is virtually empty or packed full of people, the consequences of these incidents can be severe and potentially fatal.

What Is the Most Common Injury on Escalators?

Apart from “slip and fall” injuries caused by tripping and falling down the escalator, perhaps the most common escalator injuries occur when clothing or body parts become trapped in the stair mechanisms. For example, a scarf might get caught in the sides of the staircase. Loose shoelaces may also fall into the gap between the dismounting platform at the top of the escalator. The crushing nature of these injuries can have severe consequences, including:

  • Disfigurement
  • Amputations
  • Fractures
  • Contusions
  • Lacerations
  • Organ damage
  • Death

What Happens if You Fall Under an Escalator?

A fall is perhaps the most common escalator injury. That being said, two different types of falls may occur when riding an escalator:

  • Falling backward: A person may fall backward on an escalator if they lose their balance or trip, potentially falling onto the individual behind them and creating a domino effect. This may lead to a slew of injuries, including broken bones, spinal cord injuries, head trauma, bruises, and crushing injuries.
  • Falling off the side: These falls can range in distance from a few feet to multiple stories. Often, they occur due to poorly maintained, improperly sized, or loose guardrails. There may be no guardrail at all. The extent of  injuries sustained will depend partly on the height of each fall, but even a short tumble can cause broken bones, paralysis, spinal cord injuries, and head injuries. Under the right circumstances, these falls can even prove fatal.

Families who have lost loved ones to fatal escalator accidents may be eligible to file wrongful death lawsuits. This course of legal action can provide compensation for funeral costs, missed future wages, unpaid medical expenses, and other damages. To explore a potential wrongful death lawsuit, consult with an experienced personal injury attorney at Shillen Mackall Seldon & Spicer.

What Are the Do’s and Don’ts of Escalator Safety?

Although escalator accidents can lead to serious injuries, people can stay safe by following a few straightforward steps. These tips can even prevent fatalities. 

  • Remain upright and look ahead.
  • Do not engage in horseplay.
  • Do not push.
  • Let others pass.
  • Hold on to the guardrail at all times.
  • Watch for gaps between steps and near the guardrails.
  • Be aware of the location of the emergency stop button.
  • Avoid standing on the edge of a step or very close to the guardrail.
  • Do not use escalators when wearing loose accessories or carrying many items.
  • Do not walk in the opposite direction of moving escalators.
  • Watch children and consider holding their hands or carrying them if possible.

What Is the Effect of an Escalator Accident?

Aside from fall-related accidents, escalators can cause a range of additional injuries. These include sprains and fire-related injuries. 

  • Strains and sprains: Examples include wrist or ankle sprains due to sudden stopping, change in speed, or change of direction. These abrupt changes can cause plaintiffs to lose their balance and suffer various soft tissue injuries, such as torn ligaments and rotator cuffs. Although these injuries may not be as serious as fractures or head trauma, they can nonetheless lead to medical bills and lost wages.
  • Fire-related injuries: Some of the worst escalator accidents in history involved fires. Older models with wooden components or failing motors may be especially likely to spark fires, and these incidents may cause smoke inhalation, burns, and fatalities. 

What Are the Possible Risks From Using an Escalator?

Escalators pose numerous additional risks that may not be obvious to the average user resident. Consider these risks before stepping foot on an escalator:

  • Danger to children: Children have a tendency to play on escalator guardrails, which is particularly dangerous due to the high speed at which some escalators operate. A child can become trapped in gaps near handrails, and many escalators lack proper sensor equipment that detects entrapped children.
  • Improper use of emergency stop: Escalators typically have an emergency stop button at both ends (and in the middle for long escalators) that enables individuals to immediately halt movement if they spot a hazard. However, pranksters may hit the button and cause people to fall.

Contact a Vermont, New Hampshire, and Florida Personal Injury Attorney Today

The Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety & Health (eLCOSH) states that roughly 30 individuals lose their lives every year in the United States while riding escalators or elevators. Those who sustain escalator-related injuries, but survive, may still struggle with a range of long-term effects, including emotional, physical, and financial impacts. These plaintiffs may wish to consider speaking with a personal injury lawyer in their state to discuss their legal options for seeking compensation. Residents of New Hampshire, Florida, or Vermont can contact Shillen Mackall Seldon & Spicer at (802) 457-4843 to schedule a personalized consultation and learn more about escalator accidents and potential lawsuits.