Injuries in fatal cases of falls downstairs

J. Preuß*, S. A. Padosch, R. Dettmeyer, F. Driever, E. Lignitz, B. Madea

*Corresponding author for this work
24 Citations (Scopus)


Downstairs falls frequently occur within domestic environments and are mainly associated with elderly and intoxicated individuals, often feature multiple injuries on various parts of the body. In most cases it is not possible to determine the cause of the fall and/or death solely by means of external examination. In this retrospective study, which covers a period of 11 years, all cases of death which included a fall downstairs in their case history, were collected from the Forensic Institutes of the Universities of Bonn and Greifswald, Germany. Falls downstairs made up to 2% (166 cases) of all postmortem examinations carried out within this period. Interestingly, almost double of the amount of such falls applied to males as to females. The primary cause of death was cranio-cerebral trauma and the vast majority of skull injuries associated with falls downstairs were found above 'the hat brim line'. Injuries were also often found on several other parts of the body at once. Nineteen of the 116 examined individuals exhibited agonal injuries. In these cases, postmortem examination revealed pre-existing disease or intoxication to be the cause of death and thus, cause of the fall. The injury pattern only allows a tendency towards vital or agonal incident as a conclusion.

Original languageEnglish
JournalForensic Science International
Issue number2-3
Pages (from-to)121-126
Number of pages6
Publication statusPublished - 10.05.2004


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