Elevator safety in New York City is a huge problem – whether we’re talking about buildings in the projects (NYCHA) or luxury apartment buildings in Manhattan. According to an in-depth investigative report in The Real Deal, elevator mechanics often have little training, inspectors routinely fail to identify hazards and landlords get away without facing penalties for failing to maintain their elevators properly.
The article gives the example of an incident from Oct. 2, 2015 when a dozen people in an elevator in a luxury apartment building in Williamsburg plunged down several floors as the elevator fell with its doors still open. One person was crushed and pronounced dead at the scene. Residents of that building had apparently been wary of the elevator and its unexpected jerky movements.
However, in spite of complaints filed with the city Department of Buildings (DOB) in 2012, the agency’s experts found nothing wrong during follow-up inspections. The company that carried out maintenance on the elevator regularly flagged no issues with the agency. The Real Deal’s investigation found several disturbing pieces of information including elevator inspection reports that have been falsified, affecting the safety of city elevators in recent years.
The Dangers of Unsafe Elevators
According to the Department of Buildings, since 2010, at least 22 people have been killed in passenger elevators or as a result of falls into elevator shafts in the city, and there have been nearly 500 elevator accidents, 48 of which have led to serious injuries. While almost half of these involved passengers, a majority of those killed were elevator mechanics. Most other states require training and licensing for elevator mechanics, but New York, which has more elevators than Chicago and Los Angeles combined, has no such legal requirement.
Each year, there are dozens of lawsuits filed over elevator and elevated-related injuries and fatalities as well. The Real Deal’s investigation found that lack of training for elevator mechanics and failure on the part of inspectors to identify dangerous elevators, including falsified inspection records, have led to this dangerous condition in the city. Also, landlords and property managers who hire elevator mechanics manage to escape penalties for neglecting safety.
Almost half of the penalties for certain elevator violations issued by the city to landlords remain unpaid. Some building owners opt for nonunion firms that don’t require mechanics to undergo accredited training. Even in cases where inspectors have flagged safety issues or violations, warning signs have been overlooked.
Landlords’ Failures and Lapses
The article points out several ways in which building owners have failed to ensure proper elevator maintenance, putting residents and visitors to their properties in grave danger. When it comes to elevators, landlords and managing agents in New York City are responsible for conducting an annual test called a Category 1 and another more rigorous test every five years called the Category 5. Each test requires running the elevator, but the Category 5 test requires that the elevator be tested with its maximum load. Both tests must be carried out by maintenance mechanics hired by landlords and witnessed by DOB-licensed third-party inspectors.
A recent audit report, however, found no records for more than 8,000 required Category 1 and 5 tests as recently as in 2015 and 2016. Landlords face fines of up to $5,000 for such lapses. But these penalties are not powerful enough to get landlords’ attention. Property owners can also face criminal summonses if they fail to correct violations. However, such cases are extremely rare.
Protecting Victims’ Rights
Building owners and managers have a responsibility to keep their elevators in good working condition. Maintenance companies must ensure that elevators are serviced and functioning properly. Injured victims of elevator accidents may be able to file a premises liability lawsuit against the negligent property owners and/or managing agents etc. and seek compensation for damages including, but not limited to, medical expenses, lost wages and benefits, hospitalization, permanent injuries, disabilities, past and future pain and suffering, etc. Those who have lost loved ones in elevator accidents may be able to file wrongful death lawsuits against the negligent (careless) parties seeking compensation for their losses as well.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an elevator accident or suffered injuries as a result of negligence on the part of property owners and/or property managers etc., the experienced New York personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Kenneth A. Wilhelm can help you better understand your legal rights and options, and also fight hard to recover just compensation for you. Our law firm recovered $3,000,000 for a man who fell and suffered two broken legs when he walked into an open elevator shaft.
Please contact us TOLL FREE 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-WORK-4-YOU (1-800-967-5496). WE CAN EVEN COME TO YOU. There is no attorneys’ fee unless we recover money for you. We can also help with personal injury and medical malpractice cases in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or Florida. If you have been seriously injured in any of the 50 U.S. states, please call us and we will try to help you with your case.
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