City Liability For Snow Or Ice On A Sidewalk

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 Does The City Have A Duty To Keep Sidewalks Clear?

Depending on where you live and what entity the sidewalk belongs to, a city generally has a duty to keep sidewalks clear and safe for pedestrians. This duty ranges from having to repair structural damages like cracks in the sidewalk to cleaning up the aftermath of an ice or snowstorm. If a city fails to perform its duty of keeping sidewalks safe for travel and a pedestrian is injured on a sidewalk that it owns, the city can be sued for negligence.

However, there are some city sidewalks that may belong to private property owners, such as building management companies or landlords. Thus, the city may not be held responsible for not maintaining a sidewalk when a city does not technically own it, even if the sidewalk is located in the city.

For example, if the sidewalk is in front of a private establishment like a brownstone building, then the owners of that brownstone will have a duty to keep that part of the sidewalk clean. On the other hand, if the sidewalk is part of public property, such as walkways in a park or in front of a public library, then those parts of a sidewalk will be considered to belong to the city and thus the city will be responsible for failing to maintain them for pedestrians.

Therefore, if you believe you have been injured on a sidewalk due to a city’s neglectful upkeep, then it may be in your best interest to contact a local personal injury lawyer for further legal advice.

A lawyer will be able to determine which party is responsible for your injuries (e.g., the city or a private owner), can discuss whether you have a viable claim, and can help you to recover damages for any injuries that you may have suffered as a result of poorly maintained city sidewalks.

Can I Sue The City For Injuries I Suffered From Snow Or Ice On A Sidewalk?

In general, a city does not have a responsibility to clean ice or snow that has fallen in its original, natural state. For example, if it is currently snowing outside and there is a dusting of snowfall covering a sidewalk. On the other hand, a city may be held liable if it allowed snow and ice to pile up in large drifts or to form ridges on a sidewalk.

In order for an individual to recover damages for injuries suffered from snow or ice that has accumulated in an unnatural state on a city sidewalk, the individual must be able to prove that the accumulation of ice or snow made the sidewalk dangerous or unsafe. The individual must also show that the city could have reasonably found a way to make it safer for pedestrian travel.

Specifically, an individual must be able to prove the following four elements, which are the same for all claims involving negligence:

  • First, the individual must show that the city had a duty to keep its sidewalks in a reasonably safe condition. Many jurisdictions have enacted a statute that provides that a city has a legal duty to exercise reasonable care in cleaning up its sidewalks and making them reasonably safe for public travel.
    • However, this does not mean that a sidewalk will be free from all dangers, only that it can be traveled across by foot without incident.
  • Second, the individual must show that the city has somehow breached their statutory duty of having to keep all city-owned sidewalks clean and relatively safe by failing to fix the dangerous condition that occurred on the sidewalk. For example, a city will be said to have breached their statutory duty if they continued allowing snow to pile up on sidewalks to the point that a pedestrian would need to walk into the street to get by.
    • Most negligent cases reserve the third element for proving actual and proximate cause. With this particular issue, however, the third element in negligence cases varies slightly in that the individual will have to prove that the city had either actual or constructive notice of the defect in the sidewalk and that the defect was the proximate cause of the individual’s injury.
    • For instance, to show proximate cause in such cases, the individual will need to demonstrate that it was more probable than not that the defect or dangerous conditions in the sidewalk caused them to sustain an injury. As for notice, the city must have had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition on the sidewalk.
    • An individual will not be able to prove liability if they cannot show that a city knew or should have known of a defect either because of prior incidents or due to familiarity with the type of condition (e.g., a snowstorm). The requirements to show notice may vary by jurisdiction.
  • Finally, the last element that the individual will have to prove is that they suffered actual damages that were the direct and indirect result of the city’s negligent conduct.
    • For instance, if the city breached their duty to keep pedestrians safe by clearing the sidewalks after a snowstorm and leftover remnants of accumulated snow and ice caused the pedestrian to slip and injure themselves, then the city may be held liable for damages.

In other words, an individual must be able to prove that the city’s negligent conduct contributed to or caused the dangerous condition to occur, which in turn, led to the individual suffering injuries.

It should also be noted that it is not the quantity of ice or snow that was allowed to accumulate that will affect a court’s decision, but rather it is the dangerous conditions that the snow or ice created on a sidewalk that will determine the extent of a city’s liability.

In addition, a pedestrian will have a duty to exercise ordinary care when walking on a sidewalk that contains snow or icy conditions. Also, something as minor as showing the mere slipperiness of a sidewalk, will not be sufficient enough to establish a city’s liability.

The reason for this is because slippery conditions that stem from natural causes (like snow and ice from a blizzard) are presumed to put people on notice of the potential dangers associated with such hazards.

Lastly, it is important that injured parties review the laws of their jurisdiction before taking legal action. The laws in each city vary widely from one another and not all sidewalks may be owned by the actual city, but could instead be owned by a private individual or company.

Should I Contact An Attorney If I Have Been Injured On A Snowy Or Icy Sidewalk?

If you have sustained an injury from slipping on a snowy or icy sidewalk, you may be able to sue the city responsible for cleaning it. However, being able to prove such cases can be difficult and not every sidewalk will be the responsibility of the city in question. Therefore, if you need assistance with filing a claim for damages, you should consider hiring a local slip and fall lawyer for further legal guidance.

An experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to determine whether you have a viable claim and if you can hold your city or another private party accountable for your injuries. Your lawyer can also assist you in preparing a case and filing any necessary legal documents. Additionally, your lawyer can provide legal representation in court, or alternatively, during a settlement conference.

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