COVID-19 UPDATE: We are open! Our team is working and offering consultations via phone, e-mail, and video conferencing.

How Common Are California Elevator Accidents?

Craig McClellan

A San Francisco construction worker was killed on Tuesday when the counter-weight of an elevator fell on him. The man was working on the elevator for the San Francisco 49ers' new Levi's Field. Which has us wondering: How common are California elevator accidents?

The Levi Field elevator accident is an example of the most common causes of elevator accidents: construction and maintenance accidents. In addition to being crushed by an elevator or elevator parts, workers are at risk of falling down open elevator shafts.

When elevator accidents happen, whether to construction workers or elevator riders, they make the news. The reason could be that elevator accidents are very rare. Approximately twenty-seven people are killed every year in U.S. elevator and escalator accidents, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. And the type of elevator accident that frightens the most people -- elevator plunges -- happens very rarely with modern elevators.

Most elevators have multiple cables and brakes that provide additional protection in case of a defect in one cable or brake. The Washington Post recently ran a story explaining the fail-safes built into modern elevator design. Here are some of the points it made:

  • Elevator cables can fail, but there are many cables and each holds more than the weight of the elevator. Only a freak accident, such as a plane crashing into a building and slicing through all of the cables, will cause the elevator to plummet because of failed cables.
  • When there is a problem, such as an open door, the elevator will apply the brake and stop the motor. Failure of the safety system generally only occurs when a maintenance worker has been negligent.
  • There are additional safety features, such as a safety brake under the car that can slow the car, and counterweights that would cause an elevator to ascend if it was descending out of control, allowing the elevator to come to a stop once the counterweights hit the floor or ceiling.

When the rare elevator accident happens, it is usually the result of negligence -- something gone terribly wrong. If you or a loved one is injured in an elevator accident, you can and should hold the negligent parties accountable through a personal injury lawsuit.

Source: NBC Bay Area, " Elevator Worker Dies At Levi's Stadium In Santa Clara," Lisa Fernandez, Bob Redell, Alan Waples, June 12, 2013