Building codes may feel like the bane of a contractor’s and business owner’s existence, but they are integral to public health, safety and environmental protection. Basically, they are designed to keep buildings and other structures safe for everyone. If these building codes are ignored or violated, people can get hurt.
Building owners and managers are required to perform regular inspections and maintenance to ensure everything is up to code. The theory of premises liability obligates property owners to maintain safe buildings and structures, and holds them liable for any damages or injuries occurring on their property when failing to keep their property in safe conditions. In Chicago and other parts of Illinois there are specific rules required purely because it’s been determined that it is the best way to keep the public safe.
Unfortunately, premise safety often takes a back seat to financial considerations. When innocent peoples are injured because of an accident involving a building that was not in compliance with applicable building code provisions, the victim may be entitled to compensation through premises liability.
Take for example Bonita Milem. A 68-year-old woman who broke her right ankle and wrist at a Chicago restaurant when she fell walking down the stairs to a basement dining area. Obviously, a slip and fall can happen almost anywhere but in Milem’s case the 10.25-inch stair riser violated Section 13-160-300 of the city’s building code stating the maximum height of a stair riser should not exceed 7.5 inches.
In Milem’s premises liability lawsuit, a Cook County jury awarded Milem $500,000 arguing that the restaurant’s manager failed to not only warn customers of the step, but also failed to resolve the violation.
Generally speaking, if you fall coming down a stairs you have to show that something negligent made you fall. If you are at a private business you probably don’t have a tape measure handy to determine if the stairs are too big and certainly won’t be thinking about that if you lay on the ground in pain. But if you do get injured from a stair fall, you should have someone go back and check the height of the stairs.
So while this is a unique case and it’s more common to fall due to bad lighting, holes in stairs or a lack of required railing, there are some stairs and risers built too high. If that’s why you fall and get hurt, you’d likely have a case.
Property managers and building owners can be held accountable for any injuries caused if they choose to ignore building code requirements. Because premises liability involves complex legal issues with the need of solid evidence, it is important to consult an attorney that has experience with a personal injury and premises liability laws. Not every accident lawyer can really demonstrate a track record of winning those cases. If you’d like our recommendation as to a law firm with a real record of success, contact us any time. There is never a fee unless the case is successful.