June 14, 2021
There can be no greater tragedy than the loss of a child as a result of an accident. Children are naturally inquisitive, curious and playful. Unfortunately, they do not know the bounds of safety and often do not have the gift of balance. Occasionally, we read in the newspaper about the tragic death of a child from falling from the window of a home or apartment building. Or, equally tragic, a fall resulting in severe traumatic brain damage or paralysis, like quadriplegia or paraplegia. Applying modern safety standards, these tragic accidents should never occur.
There are no federal standards that require the use of safety equipment to prevent a child from falling out of a window. There are, however, national statistics that tell us that approximately 8000 children are treated for window falls each year. Safety standards can be found in local building codes, and standards published by the American Society for testing and materials, the American Architectural Manufacturers Association, the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the National Safety Council and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Standards and recommendations can also be found in literature published by window manufacturers. In addition, you can look to the company that manufactured the window to see if they offer a variant that would be more childproof, such as one that opens vertically rather than horizontally. Finally, you can look to literature published by companies that sell window safety devices and locks.
In addition to the owner of the premises, a personal injury lawyer may look to the manufacturer of a safety device that failed. For example, screw-on window locks can fail, whereas safety screws function better and are just as economical. When it comes to hotels and landlords, it will be important to review inspection records to see if window safety was ever addressed. An ignorant landlord or hotel owner is a negligent one.
The State of New York and New York City have been particularly vigilant about addressing concerns about child safety when it comes to windows and balconies. In the 1970s, N.Y.C. developed an educational program titled “Children Can’t Fly.” This PSA includes a discussion about safety devices that must be implemented in order to prevent children from falling from heights.
In litigating a serious personal injury or wrongful death claim arising out of a fall from a building, the law of premises liability applies. While this law may vary slightly from state to state, generally, a landlord or property owner is held liable for those hazards that they know about or should have known about. The same law applies when objects fall from a balcony or ledge and land on a passerby causing death, severe personal injury or brain damage. In these instances, landlords and property owners are deemed negligent if they fail to eradicate dangerous objects that can be inadvertently knocked off, like flower pots and icicles, or, in some instances, thrown from the hotel, onto populated areas below.
If you have been the victim of an injury or death of a family member related to objects falling from a building or a child falling from a window or balcony, you should contact an experienced personal injury lawyer so that they can conduct an inspection of the property as soon as possible in order to document the hazardous condition before the landlord or property owner repairs it.