Sidewalk Injuries: Causes & Liability

Posted on January 7th, 2019
By Steven Gursten

Sidewalk Injuries and Safety

A sidewalk should be a safe place for pedestrians to walk, and most of the time it is. Sidewalks give pedestrians a place to walk that is separated from cars, increasing the likelihood that pedestrians can walk to and from work, school or other destinations without worrying about collisions with vehicles.

In spite of the intended safety of sidewalks, injuries sometimes occur on them, usually caused by tripping or slipping and falling. There are several possible causes of sidewalk injuries to pedestrians such as:

  • An uneven step
  • An overgrown tree branch
  • Wet leaves
  • An icy patch.
  • Broken pavement
  • Something spilled on the sidewalk

It’s possible to sustain a serious injury from a slip and fall accident on a sidewalk. If you fall and experience a severe injury on a sidewalk, who is liable?

Types of Sidewalks

Different types of sidewalks

There are times when a slip and fall accident is just an accident and wasn’t caused by anyone’s negligence. There are other times when it’s fair to conclude that the owner of the property didn’t provide a reasonable level of maintenance to their property in order to help prevent possible accidents.

Sidewalks can be either private or public. Most sidewalks are considered public, and they separate private property from nearby public streets. Private sidewalks are intended to have the same purpose but they are actually part of a private piece of property such as the roadway in an apartment complex.

Who’s Responsible for Maintaining Sidewalks?

Maintenance responsibility

The responsibility for maintaining sidewalks is determined by local laws, which may differ from one city to the next. Sidewalks that are on private property are usually considered the responsibility of the owner of the property, which could be a homeowner’s association, an individual, or a business.

Some cities consider the maintenance of public sidewalks to be the responsibility of local authorities. In suburbs, it may be considered the responsibility of individuals who own property adjacent to the sidewalk. In this case, the homeowners would be responsible for ice and snow removal or any maintenance that is needed to the sidewalk. Local ordinances determine who is liable if an injured party attempts to recover damages caused by inadequate or improper maintenance.

Possible Defenses Against Sidewalk Injuries

Sidewalk Injury Defenses

Before trying to determine who might be liable for a sidewalk injury, you should consider possible defenses that may be presented against your claim. Some jurisdictions prevent or limit lawsuits against local municipalities who might have been considered responsible for the maintenance of public sidewalks. This is known as the doctrine of governmental immunity.

Another possible defense that might be used is that you may have sustained an injury because of your own negligence. Like drivers, pedestrians are expected to stay alert when walking and avoid distractions such as reading texts or listening to music on headphones.  If the hazard was considered open and obvious and could have been easily avoided if you had been paying attention, you might be considered liable for your own injury. Laws involving injuries that occurred due to open and obvious hazards vary from one state to the next.

Getting Legal Advice

If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident on a sidewalk, it’s a good idea to discuss what happened with a professional attorney who is familiar with the local doctrines involving sidewalk injuries in your area. To find out your legal options, contact Taos Injury Lawyers by completing the form on this page. An attorney who is knowledgeable about this type of injury will get in touch with you to help you understand your rights and whether another party might be considered liable for your slip and fall injury.

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