A fall from an elevated space such as a roof, balcony, window, bridge or scaffold is not something anyone wants to suffer.  Injuries from such falls are typically much worse than single-level slip and falls.  Injuries from elevated falls often include traumatic brain injury, broken bones, neck and spine injuries, internal organ damage, paralysis, permanent disability and death.

Falls from elevated spaces are usually the result of an unsafe environment and are often preventable with basic security measures such as adequate railing.  Railings must be built to state and local code and must be properly maintained.  Railings must be the proper height and must be constructed strongly enough to guard against falls.  Elevated openings with low railing or no railing pose an unreasonable risk of serious injury. 

Common Causes of Elevated Falls

Falls from elevated spaces may be caused by broken stairs, missing handrails, low or inadequate railing, open windows, defective windows or screens, unstable ladders, faulty scaffolding, collapsing structures, unguarded openings, unfinished construction, or other unsafe property conditions.  Lack of proper support is a common cause of falls from ladders and scaffolding.  Children are particularly at risk of falling from heights when they are not properly supervised, or when there are dangerous conditions present such as open windows.

Who Is Liable for Elevated Falls?

Property owners have a duty to keep their property safe. Inadequate or poorly constructed railings are dangerous conditions, which means the property owner is liable for any injuries which occur as a result.  Any city, municipality and/or contractor (such as a construction company) who had a duty to maintain the property in a safe condition is also liable.

Compensation for Victims

Victims who fall from elevated spaces due to dangerous property conditions may recover for past and future medical expenses (which may be enormous), pain and suffering, lost wages, emotional distress and other damages. 

If the victim dies as a result of the fall, the victim’s family may file a wrongful death claim.  Wrongful death claims may include loss of financial support, medical costs related to the accident, lost companionship, funeral and burial costs, pain and suffering and other damages.

Elevated Falls at Construction Sites

The owners and operators of construction sites have a duty to provide fall protection.  However, they do not always fulfill this duty.  OSHA sets forth the specific legal requirements for construction site safety, and fall protection was the most commonly cited OSHA violation in 2020

Falls at construction sites may be caused unsafe ladders, unsafe scaffolding, unguarded openings, collapsed structures, unfinished structures, inadequate signage and other dangerous conditions.  If the accident occurred at the workplace, the employee may be entitled to worker’s compensation benefits.  However, many construction site accidents can be classified as personal injury claims, which means the victim may able to recover other damages well beyond what worker’s compensation would provide. 

Construction site accident claims typically involve special rules such as OSHA and worker’s compensation.  If you were injured in a construction site accident, it is important to have a lawyer who understands these rules.  Construction accidents may involve claims construction site owners, contractors, subcontractors, engineers, architects, makers and sellers of tools and equipment, suppliers of materials, and insurance companies.  Expect each of them to deny liability and blame others for the accident. 

Falling Objects

It is dangerous and illegal to throw or drop objects off of buildings.  Throwing or dropping something off of a building is a felony if the object could cause great harm.  Even something as small as a penny can cause great harm when dropped from high enough.  People who throw or drop objects off of buildings are liable for all injuries which occur as a result, including wrongful death in the event someone dies.


Pushing someone out of a window, or throwing them from heights, is a despicable crime due to the high likelihood of serious injury or death.  In addition to facing a lengthy prison sentence, the perpetrator is liable for all of the victim’s injuries (including wrongful death if the victim dies).

Injured In a Fall?

Falls from heights often result in serious injuries.  See a doctor right away and receive treatment for your injuries.  Save all of your receipts and medical records.  Continue treatment as directed by your doctor.  Call an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as you are able.  The best way to protect your legal rights is to hire a proven personal injury lawyer.  A good attorney will inform you, maximize your compensation, and manage the legal aspects of your claim so you can focus on your recovery.


California Department of Industrial Relations, Title 8 Index – “Railings’’

County of San Diego, Planning & Development Services, Building Division – Guards and Handrails

Occupational Safety and Health Administration – About OSHA

Code of Federal Regulations, Section 1926.501 – Duty to Have Fall Protection

Occupational Safety and Health Administration – Commonly Used Statistics

California Penal Code, Section 245 – Assault and Battery