An escalator is a power driven moving stairway made up of interconnected steps and risers, usually made of grooved metal.  At the end, the steps appear to disappear from the floor.  A comb plate covers the end where teeth fit into grooves to reduce the opening. There are many times when escalator users may become injured. Usually, escalator injures occur when parts of a victim’s body, clothing, or package gets caught in the escalator.

Other factors that cause injury in an escalator often include:

  • Improper elevator design
  • Defective design of escalator
  • Failure to warn that escalator is not working properly
  • Failure to follow building codes
  • Failure to follow escalator laws and regulations
  • Overcapacity
  • Failure to maintain and inspect elevator

What Duty Of Care Is Owed To Users Of An Escalator?

Courts are not unanimous on the level of care that a manufacturer, installer, maintenance contractor, repairer, owner, or operator owes users of an escalator.  Some courts say that a duty of reasonable care for the safety of the users is owed. Others apply the higher standard of care of a common carrier because escalators are used to transport the general public. As a common carrier, the owner and operator of an escalator have a higher standard of care to maintain and inspect the escalator to prevent any type of injuries to escalator users.

Who Can Be Liable For An Escalator Injury?

Like an elevator accident injury, parties that can be held liable for escalator accidents can be property owners, property managers who had responsibility to maintain the escalator, the escalator manufacturer, the escalator maintainer company. Also, third parties contracted by the elevator owner to service and maintain the elevators are also held liable for injuries that occur on escalators.

What Are The Most Common Types Of Escalator Accident Claims?

The most common type of escalator injury occurs when part of the body, clothing, or package a user is carrying gets caught in the escalator.  The most common types of suits for escalator injury include:


Riders who get body parts caught in an escalator often sue for negligence. The alleged negligence can take many forms, including negligent design and inadequate repair or maintenance.  Many times a user can show their body part got caught and they suffered injury, but are not in a position to describe what went wrong, as the workings of an escalator are usually unknown to a passenger.  Moreover the person or company responsible for the escalator may be able to show that the escalator never before or after the accident caused such injuries.

Strict Liability

Other riders rely on claims of strict liability in tort to recover.  Under this doctrine, liability is established because an escalator is seen as unreasonably dangerous.  For example, one court held a store strictly liable for injuries to a 22-month old boy whose little finger became caught between the moving treads and the side panel.  The court reasoned that escalators are unreasonably dangerous to young children because their danger outweighs their utility.

Failure To Warn

One type of claim that can encompass the aspects of both negligence and strict liability is a failure to warn claim. Under this claim, liability can be found where the person or company responsible for the escalator knew or had reason to know that there was a dangerous situation but neglected to warn the public in a timely and appropriate manner.  Many escalators have warnings, yet in a number of cases, the courts have found the defendants liable when escalator riders were caught in the mechanism because the defendant should have warned of the danger of being caught. 

How Can I Prove an Escalator Injury?

Escalator injury victims that have been injured while using an escalator have the burden to prove:

  1. The escalator owner owed a duty of standard care toward the victim to maintain a safe escalator for all users of the escalator.
  2. The owner breached that duty by not keeping a safe escalator
  3. The escalator was the cause of the victim’s injury
  4. The victim was in fact injured by the escalator and has suffered damages.

Escalator injury victims usually face a challenge of having access to insufficient information to determine the cause of an escalator malfunction. In an escalator case it is necessary to obtain all of the records relating to the device for at least two to three years before the accident including all records of any other accidents, all maintenance records and all records of any "callbacks".

Should I Consult An Attorney About Escalator Liability?

If an escalator has injured you, you should consult a personal injury attorney immediately.  There may be defenses available which could bar your recovery, but an attorney can explain the law and your rights to preserve your case so that you can get compensated for your injuries.