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Railing Failures

Balconies are great, are they not? You may have a breathtaking view. If you are in the City of Philadelphia, it provides a nice way to get outside for a quick minute if you live in an apartment building. As we all know, apartment buildings in Philadelphia are not always the most cared for pieces of property. All balconies should have a railing; however, a railing tends to be the first piece of a property that falls into disrepair. A lot of people tend to overlook them. Railings, after all, should be well-maintained and cared for because they are essential to keep people safe. Even if the railing is going up a flight of stairs, the railing is an important safety feature, particularly for the feeble or elderly.


In the City of Philadelphia in particular, there are laws which must be followed in order for landowners to avoid liability from injuries resulting from a railing failure. Railing failures are unfortunately common amongst older buildings or poorly constructed ones. The insurance and accident lawyers at Freundlich & Littman, LLC know this possibility and want to stand by your side to make sure that you are well provided for in the event of a railing failure. If you or a loved one has been injured in a railing failure or balcony collapse contact the insurance and accident lawyers today at 215-545-8500 or at


What are the Responsibilities of Homeowners & Landlords?

To fully realize the dangers surrounding railing failures, let us first imagine a scenario. You were invited to a friend’s house in Northeast Philadelphia where some of the houses have decks protruding from the second floor of their home. If the friend is smart, the deck has railings surrounding the sides. During the course of hanging out, you lean against the railing for support. The worst happens and the railing fails to hold you. After your fall you become aware that your friend has not looked at the railing in years. Your friend unfortunately had no idea that railings could fail like that.


As a person who owns property, the friend owes a duty to warn invited guests of potential dangers on the property. In this case, the friend was not aware of the dangers. The expenses may even be covered under the friend’s homeowners insurance. The friend could still be liable to you for any and all medical expenses that you may incur as a result of the railing failure as well as pain and suffering that resulted from the accident. Any landowner must reasonably inspect their property of dangers when inviting people onto their property. If the friend inspected his property in a reasonable manner, the friend would have immediately discovered that the railing was unsafe.


Under Philadelphia law, your friend likely failed their duty and broke the law. The Philadelphia Maintenance Code makes landowners responsible for the following: “The exterior of a structure ‘be maintained in good repair, structurally sound and sanitary so as not to pose a threat to the public health, safety or welfare.’”[1] This means that the friend most likely owed a duty to you to keep his deck and railing safe. The City of Philadelphia, due to the friend’s lack of inspection, could make the friend liable for medical expenses that you incur from the railing failure.


As a guest at the party, you are also required to exercise due care. If you notice the railing looks flimsy or your friend actually tells you to stay away from it, it may affect your chances of recovering full medical expenses.


What if I am on a Commercial Property?

If you are on a commercial property the rules remain the same. If you are staying at a hotel that has a balcony and the railing fails, the hotel owner may be liable to you for medical expenses and pain and suffering. As the plaintiff, or person commencing the lawsuit, it is your burden to show that the hotel owner did not reasonably inspect the property. As a commercial entity, a hotel is more likely to inspect their property regularly, but that certainly does not stop them from neglecting their duty.


What should I do?

If you find yourself the victim of a railing failure, you should first seek immediately medical attention. Even if you feel that you are fine, many neck and spinal injuries go unnoticed at first. Seeking medical attention immediately after the accident is better for your health and any potential lawsuit. It gives everyone involved the fullest description of your injuries.


As with all lawsuits, it is important to keep all medical records, police reports, or accident reports. It will make the lawsuit process smoother. If you decide to sue remember that the statute of limitations for bringing a case like this is two years. The two years begins when someone is injured or discovers that they have been injured. You may not immediately realize that you have been injured. If you decide to sue, you are not alone in this. The insurance and accident attorneys at Freundlich & Littman, LLC will fight for your rights. Call us today at 215-545-8500 or email at to schedule a free consultation.


[1] PM § 304.

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