Proving The Cause Of An Escalator Accident With Animation

An escalator is a helpful piece of machinery that can turn into a deathtrap in a split second due to mechanical failure and lack of proper maintenance.

Quite a number of technological innovations aimed at making people’s lives easier end up exposing them to risk. These innovations may look harmless, and fear of them may even be considered paranoid by others. However, a person who has experienced the possibility of danger associated with using one of these innovations will argue otherwise. One of those undeniably useful and harmless-looking innovations is an escalator.

Truth be told, using an escalator is now part of a person’s everyday life commuting in public. They are in malls, subway stations, hotels, stadiums, airports, and public buildings. It’s to aid people’s movement from high ground to lower ground and vice versa without having to burn energy. 

Compared to using stairs, or an elevator, an escalator can move a large number of people at the same time without a stampede happening from everyone trying to find their way up or down at the same time. The ability to continuously move a large number of people simultaneously, unlike the stairs, made it to be referred to as “the revolving stairs” in some quarters. 

However, this device that looks like it doesn’t take up a lot of space is a heavy piece of machinery.

Failure to treat it like a machine should be treated- i.e., looked after, maintained, cared for, and replace faulty parts – can turn the otherwise useful piece of machinery into a deathtrap resulting in bone-crushing accidents, disability, and death to its users. According to data by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, elevator and escalator accidents results in about 30 deaths and 17,000 injured victims in the United States per year.

The way an escalator is designed gives it that liberty – when it malfunctions – to turn from a public-aid innovation into a grinding device, crushing shoes, legs, arms, and anything that gets unfortunately trapped in its claws. 

Photo by Mike Von on Unsplash

How Do Escalators Work?

Those who have seen armored tanks in war movies with land battles and physical combat will compare its link to an escalator. This is because the wheels are linked by a chain that keeps them revolving around to return to their position once they complete a cycle.

With the escalator, it’s like having many steps on a staircase, except that this time, each step is mechanized and made to have a wheel that enables it to move around a cycle to be brought up again.

Each step in an escalator is a whole entity that makes up the body of a larger one. It’s often layered with rubber or stainless steel to help maintain a proper grip and avoid slippage. 

Each step stays flat at the top and bottom of the escalator, but as they are being rolled into a new cycle, they are raised from being flat to being a proper step.

The steps each have bottom wheels, and they are all connected by a step chain attached to the side of the steps. The edges of the steps are marked to indicate where a user shouldn’t take their legs across. This is because once the escalator has been set in motion, it continues on the track, moving regardless of whatever is happening on the surface of the steps.

The step chains coordinating the movement of the steps on a track are normally connected to an electric motor with chains. The motor kickstarts the motion and allows the stairs to keep moving and rotating in a loop. The handrails are also connected with gears to this electric motor. This is to ensure that they all move in sync.

The chains interconnecting the motor, the step chain, and the stairs’ wheels are all housed in a metal frame called the truss.

What Can Cause An Accident To Users of An Escalator?

Several events can cause an otherwise harmless escalator to cause an accident to its users. Sadly, due to the volume of people a working elevator can carry a once, a minor fault in the machine or a misstep by one person can cause harm to everyone on the escalator.

Due to the fact that an electric motor controls an escalator, mechanical faults like sudden stops, starts, or unexpected changes in direction or speed can make it jerk and cause injury to users. Sudden acceleration or deceleration of the escalator can prove to be deadly. An example is the case of McMillian v. Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers.

In the case mentioned above, one of the plaintiffs was riding an escalator when it jerked and caused her to fall and suffer a separated shoulder and a laceration to the scalp.

In addition, a broken or missing step in an elevator is a death trap for users. Users can get stuck in the missing step or the broken part resulting in a fatal accident.

Furthermore, an escalator manufacturer’s faulty or poor design can cause an accident for its users. A loose handrail or poorly spaced steps and panels can cause users to lose their balance and fall right from the top to the bottom of an escalator, causing numerous injuries. An example can be seen in the case of Hunt v. City Stores, Inc.

In the above-mentioned case, the victim’s shoe was caught in the space between the moving tread and the escalator’s left side panel. The escalator dragged his foot and pulled it into the side opening, causing him to injure both knees.

Photo by Harold Wijnholds on Unsplash

Animating The Cause Of An Escalator Accident

Animation has proven to be one of the most valuable legal visual strategies an attorney can use during a trial to support an expert opinion and illustrate thiers to the jury. An accident involving an escalator is no different.

If a mechanical error causes an injury to users of an escalator, an animation can be used to illustrate how animation is expected to work. Its mechanical composition can each be illustrated as a separate part, and what caused the accident can be picked out. This will help determine whether the accident resulted from poor manufacturing design or negligence on the part of the owner of the escalator to maintain the machine.

In addition, watching a live video of how an escalator injury unfolded can be too much to bear for jury members. It may be too gruesome to watch. But with animation, a less gruesome video showing the injuries to different parts of the body can be illustrated without losing out on the details of the severity of the injuries and the events that caused them. 


Escalator accident animation is a perfect way to illustrate whatever caused the accident. It can help provide a detailed – yet comprehensive- technical explanation of how an escalator (mal)functioned, leading to irreversible damage to the victims.

However, an attorney seeking to use animation in an escalator accident case should employ the services of a legal animation company with records of creating admissible animation that win cases.

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