A Philadelphia Sheriff’s Department sergeant was seriously injured earlier this month when an elevator in the city’s main courthouse suffered a mechanical failure and shot upwards into a maintenance room at the top of the shaft. A woman in a second elevator received minor injuries from falling debris caused by the crash, and the accident has put the main elevators in the Stout Center for Criminal Justice out of action until they can be repaired, inspected, and safely returned to service. The cause of the failure has not yet been determined.
Potentially Catastrophic Injuries
The victim was reported to have received severe injuries to his head and back, which have paralyzed him from the waist down. He was still in critical condition as of the last public update and had been placed into an induced coma. The prognosis is uncertain, but he will likely need major back surgery.
The second victim was able to walk away from the accident on her own and was treated for her injuries. She was lucky to escape without serious harm, as concrete and other debris from the crash fell fifteen stories down the elevator shaft before striking the car she was in.
Elevator Crashes Happen
The crash began with a noise that some likened to an explosion, which triggered fire alarms and emergency shutdowns. The entire seventeen-story courthouse had to be evacuated and remained closed for more than a day afterward.
Elevators are in general a very safe mode of transportation. In fact, by some measures, they’re safer than taking the stairs. But they’re not without risk, and it’s estimated that twenty-five to thirty people (most of them elevator installers and repair-persons) are killed in elevator accidents each year. While deaths are very rare, injuries are more common. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that in 2012 close to 23,000 people were seriously injured by elevators.
Most elevator injuries and deaths are blamed on poor maintenance. The Philadelphia courthouse elevators last passed inspection in June. The building’s other elevators passed a precautionary re-inspection immediately after the crash.
Not a Unique Situation
This isn’t the first serious elevator crash in our area in recent memory. Two Bucks County police officers reached a $4 million settlement after being injured in a 2008 fall down an open shaft. In 2011, a twenty-five-year-old man fell to his death down an elevator shaft. And earlier this summer, a guard and an inmate at a prison in Wilkes-Barre both died when they shoved each other into an elevator door and it gave way into an empty shaft.
Injuries, while more common, receive less news coverage. Their victims still deserve proper recognition and compensation for their injuries, however.
Premises Liability Lawyer in Philadelphia
The harm that can result from an elevator accident can be extremely serious. When this kind of injury is caused by the negligence of a business or property owner, the victim can and should seek restitution for all expenses—present and future—that result from the injury.
At the Pearce Law Firm, PC, we understand the issues involved with complex personal injury cases, including the premises liability considerations and other concerns that can be at play in a situation such as an elevator accident. Give us a call to learn more—we offer a free consultation to all new clients. Our number is 215-557-8686, or you can reach us online by completing the form below to schedule an appointment at your convenience. You can also use the LiveChat feature of this website to have some of your questions answered right now.