Elevators are often described as the safest means of travel. I don’t know if that is true, though it may well be, given the untold numbers of times elevators go up and down across America on any given day. Nevertheless, elevators are machines and like all machines, they can and do fail. The reality of a free-falling elevator can be as frightening as the nightmare. The occupant is completely helpless and can do nothing until the failed elevator falls.
Sometimes elevator deaths are caused by a combination of elevator failure and occupant panic – the trapped person becoming claustrophobic, trying to exit a stalled elevator and falling through the shaft. A somewhat more common cause of elevator accidents, usually not resulting in fatalities, are doors that close too fast and do not stop when encountering a trapped person or limb. On very rare occasions, elevator doors open, but the elevator has not ascended, a fatal trap if an unwary person steps into the void. An elevator that fell five floors to the lobby of a downtown Boston high rise, resulted in traumatic brain injury to a female passenger. Despite the protests of the elevator manufacturer and maintenance company that the elevator was safe and the accident probably never happened (there was a second occupant of the elevator who said that it did), they settled the case for $1.1 million. On the rare occasion when an elevator does fail and causes death or serious injury, there will inevitably be fault on the part of the manufacturer or the entity responsible for maintenance.