Defective Sidewalk Conditions

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 What is a Sidewalk Accident?

A sidewalk accident is a personal injury accident which occurs on a sidewalk. These types of accidents typically involve a pedestrian who is injured by another party.

An example of a sidewalk accident is when a bicyclist is riding on the sidewalk instead of on the street and collides with a pedestrian, causing injuries. The injuries may be severe or minor depending upon the collision and the health of the pedestrian.

Sidewalk accidents may also occur if the sidewalk is in disrepair, causing an individual to trip and fall and sustain injuries.

Who is Responsible for Sidewalk Accidents?

The party or parties responsible for sidewalk accidents depend on whether or not one of the parties was negligent. An individual is negligent when they fail to exercise the amount of care which an ordinary individual would in the same or similar circumstances.

The individual who causes the accident may have been responsible for protecting the victim from harm. In certain cases, however, a victim may be partially or entirely responsible for the accident due to their own negligence.

Repairing a dangerous or defective condition on a sidewalk is generally the responsibility of the city or municipality. Failure to adequately remedy a sidewalk defect may cause injuries to the individuals who use it.

It is important to note that if an individual entered into an area which was marked as dangerous or unusable and then sustained injuries, it may reduce or even prevent their ability to recover compensation.

Who is Responsible for Trip and Fall Injuries?

What party may be held responsible for trip and fall injuries will depend upon where the accident occurs. A municipality is generally responsible for maintaining streets and sidewalks in a reasonably safe condition.

Pedestrians may trip over rebar, or metal stakes which protrude dangerously out from the sidewalk. If the remainder of the sidewalk is in reasonable condition, a pedestrian will likely assume that there is no protruding rebar to be looking out for.

As an individual may be reasonable in their belief that the sidewalk is reasonably safe, they therefore, do not feel required to constantly scan the ground for danger. If they are injured as a result of a danger of this type, a municipality may be held liable for any resulting trip and fall injuries.

Another example would be an individual who is descending into an underground garage who may trip and fall due to an unexpected hazard because of conditions including:

  • Lighting is too dim;
  • The angle of the descent is too steep to be considered safe;
  • An intermediate landing is missing or is lacking; and
  • Handrails are lacking or missing.

Because certain safety standards are required to be met, the builder or owner of a garage may be held liable for trip and fall injuries which result. In certain cases, store owners may also be held liable for these types of injuries.

For example, if a rollerblader trips while riding on a ramp which is in violation of the applicable building codes, the store owner may be held liable for injuries which result. Similarly, if an employee trips and falls on stairs that are in violation of building codes, the store owner may also be held liable.

A trip and fall claim is a specific type of personal injury lawsuit based on the legal theory of negligence. The theory of negligence asserts that the individual or organization responsible for the injuries was careless and failed to take the proper actions which would have prevented the injury from occurring.

What Kind of Damages Can be Awarded for a Trip and Fall?

If a property owner is determined to be negligent or to have breached their duty of care in preventing an accident or injury from occurring on the property, the plaintiff can be awarded monetary damages. Monetary damages are awarded to compensate an injured party for:

  • Pain and suffering;
  • Future and present medical bills; and
  • Lost income or loss of earning capacity.

In certain egregious cases, the plaintiff may be awarded punitive or treble damages. Punitive damages are damages that are intended to punish a defendant as well as to deter them from committing the same or a similar offense in the future.

The property owner may also be ordered to repair or fix the dangerous condition which resulted in the injury. In order for a party to avoid the court system, a property owner and an injured party may reach a settlement agreement.

This is an amount of money which is received by the plaintiff in exchange for forfeiting their right to sue in court for their injuries.

Can I Sue the City for Injuries I Suffered from a Defective Sidewalk?

If an individual was injured while on a defective sidewalk, the city that is responsible for maintaining the sidewalk may be held liable. To recover for an injury, a plaintiff is required to show four elements of negligence, including:

  • Duty;
  • Breach;
  • Causation; and
  • Damages.

A city or municipality has a duty to keep the sidewalks in a reasonably safe condition. The majority of jurisdictions have a statutory duty to exercise reasonable care in maintaining sidewalks in order to keep them in reasonably safe condition for public use.

This does not mean that the sidewalk is required to be free from any and all dangers. It means that the sidewalk is required to be in reasonably safe condition considering the:

  • Location;
  • Use; and
  • Amount of travel.

A breach occurs if the city fails to remedy the defect. To prove a breach occurred, the plaintiff must show that the city violated its duty with respect to the condition of the sidewalk.

The plaintiff must also show that the defect in the sidewalk was the proximate cause of their injuries. This may be accomplished by showing that it is more likely that not that the defect caused their injuries.

The municipality or city must have had constructive or actual notice of the defect in the sidewalk. In general, they cannot be held liable unless it can be shown that they knew or should have known of the defect for a sufficient period of time prior to the accident which would have allowed them time to remedy the issue or to take precautions to prevent injuries from occurring.

For example, evidence that other individuals fell on the same sidewalk would demonstrate that the city should have been aware of the defect. In some jurisdictions, the notice requirement may be statutory, meaning that the city was required to have received written notice regarding the issue within a specific amount of time prior to the accident.

Do I Need to Consult an Attorney Regarding Injuries I Suffered from a Defective Sidewalk?

If you suffered an injury due to a dangerous or defective public sidewalk, the city or municipality may be responsible. It may be helpful to consult with a slip and fall lawyer to recover compensation for your injuries.

Many municipalities and cities have attorneys on staff who handle legal issues, including defending against any lawsuits filed against the city. Proving these types of cases can be difficult so having a lawyer is often your best chance at recovering compensation for your injuries.

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