The warmer temperatures and cool breezes of late spring tempt many people to open windows in their homes and let in the fresh air. But without safeguards, windows pose a serious risk to children. Falls from windows increase significantly from May through August, and more than half result in severe injuries. The Consumer Products Safety Commission ranks windows as one of the top five hidden hazards in the home.
According to the New York State Special Emphasis Report, falls are the leading cause of child injuries and the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations in children under five. Falls from windows cause more severe injuries and deaths than any other type of fall, and safety measures could have prevented many of them. Reach out to a premises liability lawyer or product liability lawyer.
Children and Window-Fall Statistics
According to the National SAFE KIDS Campaign, about 4,000 children ages 10 and younger seek medical treatment each year for injuries related to falling out windows, and about 12 die from their injuries. Toddlers constitute most window-fall victims. These accidents most often happen at the child’s home, nearly half the time in multi-family residential units like hotels, apartments, and condos.
Children who fall from a height of three stories or more or land on a hard surface, such as concrete or brick, are more likely to suffer serious injuries, such as traumatic brain injury and death.
Types of Window-Fall Injuries
The severity of injuries from window falls can vary based on the height from which the child falls and the surface on which they land.
Window-fall injuries mpremiseay include:
- Cuts, abrasions, lacerations
- Bruises, contusions
- Internal injuries
- Facial fractures
- Arm and leg fractures
- Neck and abdominal injuries
- Spinal injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Fractured skull
Many window-fall cases involve premises liability. Owners of apartments, condominiums, and hotels owe a duty of care to keep their grounds free of any obvious and potential dangers that could harm tenants and guests. Victims and their families can hold them accountable for window falls if owners don’t take adequate preventative measures.
For example, New York City law requires owners of multi-family residential units to install and maintain window guards or limiting devices on all windows in apartments where children ages 10 and younger reside, and in windows of the apartment of any tenant who requests them regardless of whether children reside there. They must also properly install guards or limiting devices in all windows in common areas.
Window and Safety Device Manufacturers
In some cases, you can hold a manufacturer, distributor, supplier, or retailer of a window or window safety device liable for a person’s fall from a window if a product defect caused the fall. These circumstances may give rise to a product liability lawsuit.
Falls From Windows are Not Uncommon in NYC
On April 16, 2023, two toddlers fell from apartment windows in two separate incidents in New York City, reinforcing the importance of window safety, especially in high-rise residential units. A two-year-old child fell from a fifth-story window through the space between the window air conditioning unit and frame. The other child, a three-year-old, fell from a sixth-floor window. According to published reports, neither dwelling had window guards in place.
Window falls are a particular risk in New York City because many families live in high-rise, high-density housing. Some buildings may not meet building or safety requirements.
In 2021 alone, nine children ages 10 and younger fell from windows in New York City, one of which resulted in death. Seven falls occurred due to improperly installed window guards, and two occurred due to the improper installation of temporary AC units.
New York City Window Safety Law
In the late 1960s, the New York City Department of Health reported that falls from heights caused 12 percent of all accidental deaths in children under 15. Afterward, the city implemented an education and prevention program, Children Don’t Fly, significantly reducing falls. Still, the city often saw over 100 falls in a year.
In 1976, the city took further steps to prevent window falls when it required multi-family residential properties to install window safety features. Falls from windows decreased significantly in NYC afterward.
New York City law requires buildings with three or more apartments to have these safety measures in place to prevent falls from windows:
- Building owners must send notices to tenants annually asking if children 10 or younger live in the apartment or if they want window guards for any reason, regardless of whether children live there. Owners must send the notice in January each year and provide a Lease Notice to Tenant or Occupant with each new lease to determine whether children live in the apartment.
- Install and maintain NYC Health Department-approved window guards or limiting devices in apartments where children reside or whenever the tenant requests window guards.
- Windows in public hallways and other common areas in buildings where children age 10 or younger reside need guards or limiting devices.
- All windows —including those with screens—need window guards or limiting devices. Exceptions include windows leading to fire escapes or those designated for emergency escapes, secondary exit windows in first-floor apartments, and windows with permanently installed air conditioner units.
- All double-hung windows need rigid-metal window guards and a minimum of 15 inches tall with three or more horizontal bars, with spaces between the horizontal bars of no more than 4.5 inches wide. Each window must have a Health Department approval number imprinted on it.
- Non-double-hung windows need Health Department-approved limiting devices installed in pairs to prevent the window from opening more than 4.5 inches in any direction. They need a Health Department approval number imprinted on them.
- AC units in a window where a child aged 10 or younger lives must be permanently and safely installed.
Requirements for condominiums and co-op buildings:
- Condominium owners should check with their building management to determine who needs to install and repair window guards in their apartments.
- The condominium’s management company takes responsibility for windows in condominium hallways.
- Co-op building management must install and maintain all window guards and limiting devices.
The law does not require private homes to have window guards, but any building where young children live should have them.
These safety precautions can significantly reduce the risk of children falling from windows:
- Install window guards or limiting devices on all second-story or higher windows.
- Move all furniture away from windows.
- Create soft landing surfaces under windows, such as bushes or plant beds.
- Do not allow children to play on fire escapes, roofs, or balconies.
- Do not leave young children unsupervised in the home.
- Talk with older children about the dangers of climbing or jumping out of windows.
Contact a New York Personal Injury Lawyer
If a fall from a window in New York injured your child or took their life, you may seek compensation for their injuries. Contact a New York personal injury lawyer near you today to discuss your child injury, premises liability, or product liability claim with your free consultation.