Most of us don’t think about sidewalks too often. They’re one of those things we take for granted, at least until someone trips or falls on them. It only takes one crack, hole, or any other type of uneven surface for someone to trip, fall, and potentially seriously harm themselves.
Common Causes for Sidewalk and Walkway Injuries
Cracks & Uneven Surfaces
Cracks and raised elevations in the pavement are quite common and usually develop over time. They are typically the result of old age, tree roots, weather effects, nearby construction and so forth.
Potholes are another common development in sidewalks and walkways. They can come from plowing, broken concrete or asphalt, or various water-based weather effects.
Grates & Cellar Doors
Faulty grates and cellar doors pose a danger for the unsuspecting pedestrian. The grate or cellar door may be unsecured or unsteady presenting a danger of a fall through it. Or the grate or cellar door may be left open unattended and without and barricade or caution signs, presenting a hazard or trap-like condition.
Debris on sidewalks and walkways can cause a dangerous obstacle course for pedestrians. Debris can include leaves, branches, loose garbage, liquid substances, small particles and items, and so forth. Such debris can easily cause a trip and fall.
Who is Responsible?
It is the property owners responsibility to maintain and repair any problems on the walkways and sidewalks on and adjoining to their property. They also must keep their sidewalks and walkways clean and clear of ice, snow, and debris. Property owners may sometimes receive notices from the city to make any necessary repairs or changes. It is then the property owner’s responsibility to do so, and failure to do so may result legal action, or even injury to innocent pedestrians. In New York City, though the sidewalks are owned by the City the law (which was amended) provides for adjoining property owner responsibility (and with exception depending on insurance coverage the City may make financial contribution). There are circumstances where the sidewalk or walkway are solely the responsibility of the municipality and in that (and all) cases a notice of claim must be timely filed.
What is Reasonable & Trivial?
The law grants property owners with a “reasonable” amount of time to detect and fix and problems on their sidewalks and walkways. While a property owner is not liable every single time a pedestrian is injured from a sidewalk or walkway accident, property owners should do everything reasonably possible to make sure their sidewalks and walkways are clean, clear, and safe for pedestrians.
The Court of Appeals has held that the particulars of the defect or condition must be examined in determining whether a defect is trivial as a matter of law and not actionable. That is, whether the defect, say a crack in the sidewalk slab, is so slight or inconsequential as to not be dangerous as a matter of law. The particulars examined include in quantifiable form the dimensions of the defect and its location and other pertinent circumstances. At times an expert such as an engineer may be required to document and opine on the dangerous condition. These type of cases are fact sensitive.
Document Your Case
To succeed and make a compelling case for your sidewalk or walkway injury, gather credible evidence using some of our tips below:
Take photos of the scene of the accident, any physical injuries suffered (including bruises, cuts, scratches, etc.), any stitches or casts (if permissible), and the clothing and shoes worn at the time of the incident. Make sure your photographs are clear and properly exhibit accurate sizes. To help show the actual size of any sidewalk or walkway problems, hold a ruler or other comparable material next to it to as your take the picture.
Get the name and contact information of anyone who witnessed the accident. Their eye witness accounts can potentially strengthen your case. If necessary, you can even ask residents in the surrounding area about the sidewalk’s condition and whether there had been any previous accidents.
It’s common for private property owners to deny that the sidewalk or walkway is not part of their property. A simple solution to this dispute is to go to your local property tax department, look up the location of the accident, and see where the property boundaries are. Also, the Big Apple Pothole Corporation documents potholes and provides the requisite notice to the City. Without prior written notice, the City does not bear responsibility.
Michael Manoussos & Co PLLC is well versed in sideway and walkway liability cases and will aggressively represent you to obtain you the maximum recovery under the law.