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Home Elevators: What You Should Know to Prevent Accidents

A home elevator can mean independence for permanently or temporarily disabled people and can prolong the number of years older adults are able to live in their homes. They can be useful for transporting large items in multi-story homes.

Home elevators, once an oddity, are increasingly popular, even trendy. The cost of the technology is falling, making them more affordable than ever, and Baby Boomers are aging. Elevators are appearing more and more in residential homes and rental homes for good reason. They’re useful and are often a necessity.

Jacob Helvey in 2010, shortly before his catastrophic elevator accident. (Photo courtesy of the Helvey family)

Jacob Helvey in 2010, shortly before his catastrophic elevator accident. (Photo courtesy of the Helvey family)

But there are risks associated with home elevators that every homeowner who has one, or everyone who rents a home with an elevator, should know about. There are precautions you should take to ensure their safety, particularly for children.

Our firm is intimately acquainted with the devastating consequences of elevator accidents. We’ve represented two families whose children sustained life-altering injuries in elevators.

As a toddler, Jacob Helvey was permanently and catastrophically brain damaged in an elevator in his home. Jordan Nelson also suffered permanent and catastrophic brain damage after an elevator accident in a rental home.

The families of these two boys once had healthy, vibrant and active sons. Today, both children require around the clock care from their parents. They’ll need that care for the rest of their lives.

What You Need to Know About Home Elevators

  • Many residential elevators allow enough space for children to become trapped between the inner and outer doors, as Jacob Helvey was.
  • Home elevators do not have to meet the same safety standards commercial elevators do. Many go for years without being inspected.
  • Even if you shut off an elevator, it can still run. Most elevators have a battery lowering system.

Precautions You Can Take

If you buy or rent a home with an elevator, there are precautions you can take to ensure its safety.

  • Never allow children to use any elevator unattended.

  • If you own an elevator, ensure that there is not enough space for a child to fit between the inner and outer doors of the elevator. The code in the state of Georgia is five inches or less. (After Jacob’s accident, the Helveys designed and installed their own barrier.)

  • Put a lock on the outer door that only adults can reach and undo. If you’re renting, ask the landlord or property management company to do the same.

  • Make sure your elevator is regularly, thoroughly inspected at least once a year. If you’re renting, ask for proof that the elevator has been inspected recently.

For more Home Elevator Safety Tips, please review this list generated from the Emmy award winning series on Fox5 about the dangers of home elevators, brought to reporter Dana Fowle’s attention by Cash, Krugler & Fredericks.

Elevator accidents and injury are preventable. My partners and I will continue to work towards industry and regulatory changes. We’ve seen enough misfortune.

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