Visitor Question

Fell down stairs because railing was not up to code…

Submitted By: Anonymous (Takoma Park, Maryland)

This was not a car accident. I had been out to dinner with a friend earlier, and our neighbor next door was having a few beers so I joined him in the open lot between our houses. He lives in a second floor apartment with an outside entrance reached by a wooden staircase.

At one point, my neighbor went upstairs, and was saying something I couldn’t hear, so I followed him up. Near the top, my foot slipped and I reached for the handrail. It is not 36″ high, which is code. This also means:

  1. My body had to tilt to the right, and downward, to reach it. This started the trajectory toward the ground, and
  2. The absence of a safety railing to caused me to fall 9′ down to hard pavers below, causing my injuries.

The Defendant ‘s Insurer claims I “assumed risk” and was contributorily negligent as I had been drinking. No doubt the Defendant will bring up my blood alcohol level as being “over the legal limit.” That’s for driving, not walking around my back yard.

The truth is that my injuries were caused by the fall itself, not stumbling or slipping. I fell 9’ and had two pelvic fractures because there was no rail which would have prevented it.

What caused me to stumble is irrelevant, as anyone can slip on a stair for any reason. This is why 36″ railings are required by code. I did not assume any risk as I did not know the height of the rail. I don’t measure public right-of-ways as I go through life. No one should have to, which is why Life Safety codes are so important.

In addition, I found out after the accident that another person had a similar fall before. So the Defendants knew of the danger and did nothing about it.

My question is, do I have any chance of winning this considering the Defendant’s assertions and Contributory Negligence law in Maryland? Would I (honestly, please) be better off paying a trial lawyer instead of going with one on a contingency basis? Thank you.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.

Answer

Dear Anonymous,

The State of Maryland is a Pure Contributory Negligence State. This type of contributory negligence is the most harsh of all the types of contributory or comparative negligence.  Under this rule, the accident victim’s failure to exercise due care, which contributes even in the slightest way to the victim’s  injuries, is an absolute bar to recovery.

In your case, regardless of the negligence of the apartment complex owner or even of your friend, it is arguable your intoxication may have contributed to your injuries, if even slightly. As a result, you would be barred from compensation from the apartment complex owner or from your neighbor.

While you can consult with several personal injury attorneys in your area, unfortunately you will likely be told the same thing; that is, contributory negligence, even in the slightest amount, bars you from compensation.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Published: October 19, 2017

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