Sidewalks can be quite treacherous pathways under certain circumstances. A neighbor who forgot to shovel snow after a storm. Someone who forgot to put salt or other ice control material down to prevent black ice from forming. Someone who has allowed debris to clutter his or her sidewalk or another person who has allowed their sidewalk to fall into ill repair… All of these scenarios are a recipe for disaster. If disaster does strike and you do slip and fall, you may be facing lost wages and mounting medical bills. Fortunately there may be some legal recourse available to you.
In order to have a personal injury claim, the sidewalk must have been in an unreasonable and unsafe condition. This is necessary for there to be a negligence argument made in your claim. Without a negligence determination, the person or entity responsible for the sidewalk cannot be held liable for your injuries.
To establish negligence, you must prove the sidewalk was unreasonably unsafe and that the responsible party/entity:
- Knew it was unsafe
- Caused it to be unsafe
- Should reasonably have known or discovered it was unsafe
Additionally, the responsible party/entity must:
- Not have acted to correct the unsafe conditions in a reasonable timeframe
- Not have warned you about the unsafe conditions
If you’re unable to establish negligence, then the owner, property manager, or other responsible entity/party is not liable for your injuries.
Rules Governing Notice Processes and Deadlines
Sidewalks can be private, public, or government property. Many are the responsibility of the city or town. You must discover:
- who is responsible for maintaining the sidewalk
- what the rules are for submitting a personal injury claim notice.
In many places, municipal regulations require a notice is submitted within 30-days or less, but the timeframe varies. The details that must be included in the notice vary from one location to the next as well. An attorney can assist with determining who is responsible for the sidewalk, how long you have to file a notice, and what information must be outlined within the notice.
Well-documented evidence is the key to proving liability in any personal injury claim. After a slip and fall on a sidewalk, you should take pictures of the scene as soon as possible and before the sidewalk conditions are corrected or repaired. You should document your physical injuries, torn clothing, and other physical evidence with photographs as well.
You may need a lawyer to get access to other evidence essential to your claim, including:
- historical complaints about the sidewalk’s conditions
- budget records or committee notes recording the need for sidewalk repairs
- records from groundskeepers or maintenance personnel reporting worsening sidewalk conditions
Slip and fall accidents that happen on public sidewalks present unique challenges. If your accident is due to the negligence of the town, city, or state, keep in mind you only have a short window in which to submit a claim. Seek the assistance of a personal injury attorney if necessary. He or she can help you determine where, when, and how the notice of injuries should be filed and assist in proving liability and negligence.