Liability for Sidewalk Injuries
Liability for Sidewalk Injuries

Sidewalks exist to make roads more friendly to pedestrians. In California, many people rely on sidewalks to get around throughout the day—to get to school or work, to shop, or sometimes just to get some exercise. Because so many people rely on them, it’s important that sidewalks are maintained for safety.

Unfortunately, this does not always happen. When sidewalks are uneven or otherwise hazardous, serious slip and fall accidents can occur. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over one million Americans sustain a slip and fall/trip and fall injury each year, and 17,000 people die from such injuries. While slip and falls usually result from slippery surfaces, they can also occur from uneven surfaces—such as an uneven sidewalk. If a person is injured while using a sidewalk, can they recover compensation?

The short answer is yes; if you are injured on a sidewalk, it is possible to recover compensation for your damages. However, there are several steps to take in order to have a successful personal injury claim for a sidewalk injury.

Who is Responsible for Maintaining the Sidewalk?

First, you’ll need to determine who is responsible for maintaining the sidewalk. This will depend on whether the sidewalk was on private or public property. For the most part, California sidewalks are public property, and are the responsibility of the city or county government. However, there are some sidewalks that are located on private property, and their maintenance is therefore the responsibility of the business or individual who owns the property. A personal injury attorney can help you determine who is responsible for the sidewalk where you were injured.

How Do You Prove Negligence?

If you decide to pursue a personal injury claim against the responsible party, you will need to establish that the individual, business, or municipality was negligent in failing to properly maintain the sidewalk. To do that, you need to prove the following:

  • The sidewalk was in an unsafe condition.
  • The responsible party either knew or should reasonably have known about the sidewalk’s dangerous condition.
  • The responsible party failed to address the dangerous condition within a reasonable time, breaching the standard of care.
  • The responsible party’s failure to act on this issue caused your injury.

Common Defenses to a Sidewalk Injury Claim

Regardless of who was responsible for the sidewalk, there are several common defenses a municipality or property owner might use to avoid being found liable for your injury. Your personal injury attorney will take these potential defenses into consideration before determining how to proceed.

  1. The sidewalk’s condition was a “trivial defect.” If the court determines the defect was too insignificant for the municipality or property owner to have repaired, they may label it a trivial defect. In that case, the responsible party would not be considered negligent for not repairing the sidewalk.
  2. The plaintiff’s shoes contributed to the accident. There is a chance that the shoes you wore when the accident happened could be called into question. This is more likely to be an issue if the shoes were high-heeled, very worn, or otherwise deemed unsuitable for walking in. Make sure you keep the shoes you were wearing when the slip and fall occured, and don’t wear them again, in case they need to be used as evidence.
  3. A tree was actually the cause of the sidewalk defect. In some cases, a tree’s roots might have grown under the sidewalk, causing unevenness. If this was the case, then the person liable may actually be the owner of the tree. There is a chance this might be a different party than the owner of the sidewalk, so your attorney will need to determine who was responsible for the tree.

Filing the Personal Injury Claim

If the negligent party is an individual or business, you have two years from the date of the injury to file a personal injury claim against the property owner. However, if the party responsible for the sidewalk’s maintenance ends up being a city or county government, the statute of limitations is different. You will need to file an administrative claim against the responsible government agency within six months of the date of injury.

“Regardless of who the responsible party is, it’s important to work with a personal injury attorney who will represent your interests and help you recover fair compensation for your injuries,” said Attorney Walter Clark, founder of Walter Clark Legal Group.

Slip and Fall Attorneys in La Quinta

Our firm has been handling personal injury cases throughout the California Low Desert and High Desert communities for over 30 years. With a 95% success rate, the personal injury attorneys at Walter Clark Legal Group will fight to hold those responsible for your loss accountable and win compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident and want to discuss your legal options, contact us today for a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer. We have offices in Indio, Rancho Mirage, Victorville, and Yucca Valley and represent clients through the entire California Low Desert and High Desert communities.

DISCLAIMER: The Walter Clark Legal Group blog is intended for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal or medical advice. References to laws are based on general legal practices and vary by location. Information reported comes from secondary news sources. We do handle these types of cases, but whether or not the individuals and/or loved ones involved in these accidents choose to be represented by a law firm is a personal choice we respect. Should you find any of the information incorrect, we welcome you to contact us with corrections.

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