Handrails and guardrails help lead people safely in locations that would otherwise present unreasonable risks of injuries. Handrails on staircases guide people up and down, providing a safe place to hold to decrease the risk of slip, trip, and fall accidents. Guardrails make roadways safer by keeping vehicles on the roadway instead of in ditches if a crash occurs. Unfortunately, not all handrails and guardrails are effective. Improper designs can make rails fail to do their jobs. The worst-designed rails can even contribute to serious injuries and deaths.
Handrails and Fall Accidents
Falls are some of the most common – and most injurious – personal injury accidents. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in five falls causes serious injuries such as bone fractures or head and brain injuries. Every year, three million people ages 65 and older seek emergency help for fall injuries. Even more startling is that fall accidents are growing more common year by year. The CDC predicts that, if things continue the way they’re going, seven people would die from falls every hour by 2030.
Handrails, when designed properly, can significantly reduce the rate of fall accidents. Falls down staircases and escalators can be some of the most dangerous, causing serious to fatal injuries. Handrails in these situations save lives. Property owners must take care to install handrails if they are reasonably necessary to help prevent accidents and injuries. Failing to have handrails, not fixing broken handrails, or using poorly designed and constructed rails are all types of negligence that could result in falls, injuries, and deaths.
An “improperly designed” handrail is one that does not fulfill accepted standards in the industry. Building and construction codes require strict rules and regulations when it comes to designing and installing handrails. The location, accessibility, height, continuity, size, perimeter, and security of mounting must all fall in line with necessary standards for a handrail to have a “proper” design. A handrail that breaches these standards is defective and may be dangerous for users.
The Dangers of Poorly Designed Guardrails
Auto accidents are a main cause of serious injuries, emergency department visits, and deaths in California. In 2016, 3,623 people in California died in traffic collisions. Roadway guardrails prevent vehicles from careering off the road if they lose control. Instead of a driver swerving to avoid an animal and crashing into a ditch, for example, the guardrail would keep the vehicle on the road and likely prevent more serious injuries and property damage. Like handrails, guardrails must also comply with specific standards of design to operate properly.
A badly-designed guardrail could give way in an accident, allowing the vehicle to fly off the road. It could even send sharp and dangerous materials through the windshield of the vehicle. Such was the case with the defectively-designed X-LITE guardrail systems, which killed multiple people from the caps spearing vehicles. Poorly installed guardrails might make a roadway more difficult to navigate, contributing to accidents. Guardrails that cannot properly absorb the energy from a vehicle in a crash could lead to serious injuries such as traumatic amputations.
Who Is Liable for Improperly Designed Rails?
If you or a loved one suffered injuries because of a defectively-designed handrail or guardrail in California, talk to an attorney about a potential premises liability or defective product claim. You might have a premises liability claim if the poor rail design stemmed from property owner negligence. If the design problem came from the manufacturer, on the other hand, you may have a product liability lawsuit. A personal injury claim could result in payment for your accident-related medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Don’t let a poorly designed rail injure anyone else. Take action to obtain compensation and get the rail replaced.