We have all tripped on a sidewalk or walkway at some point in our lives. Sidewalks and other pedestrian walkways are often uneven. Water and ice can cause major problems on these surfaces during inclement weather. Tree roots are also known to break through concrete and cause a simple walk to become treacherous. Regardless of why the surface is uneven, slippery, misaligned or damaged, it is possible to obtain a serious injury on a sidewalk.
But who is responsible when you are injured on a sidewalk? An experienced personal injury attorney can identify where negligence lies when you are injured by tripping or falling on a sidewalk.
— About Slip and Fall Accidents —
Slip and fall accidents are what sidewalk injuries and other similar incidents are called in personal injury law. Thousands of Americans suffer these types of injuries each year from their own slip and fall accidents. Some people suffer severe ramifications of an accident that often should not happen in the first place.
While many slip and fall accidents are due to negligence, some are just a normal part of life. People often lose their footing for no reason or due to their body’s own mechanisms or simple mistakes. While sidewalks and other walkways can become icy, slippery or uneven, someone else is not always to blame. Frequently humans seem to have two left feet. We are all capable of slipping and falling anywhere, at any time. So it is our own responsibility to watch where we are going.
That said, property owners are obligated to maintain their property so it is safe for those who come to visit. This is particularly true in regard to known hazards.
As an example, a retailer should know that it is important to clean up spills on their floor as quickly as possible so someone does not slip and fall. Such a store owner could be held civilly liable if they neglect to clean up spills in a timely manner.
— When You Are Injured in a Slip and Fall —
When you are injured in a slip and fall, determining who is responsible for your injuries can be a little tricky. In order to know who is responsible, it is important to determine if there was negligence involved in your accident and resulting injury. For responsibility of others to be claimed, another party must have been negligent in causing a hazard, known about the danger of that hazard without rectifying it, or been in a position of knowing about the hazard without taking the initiative to fix it.
Most cases of liability come down to employees or owners of the premises not observing and repairing a hazardous surface in a timely manner. But these cases can be difficult to prove. This is because it must be clear that the employees or owner “should have known” about the problem. These cases often come down to the jury or judge’s decision based on whether common sense was applied in the situation of the hazard.
There are certain things the law considers in regard to a property owner’s “reasonable” behavior and response to a floor or ground hazard, when looking at a negligence claim. In cases involving slips and falls, the law focuses on the owner’s repair and maintenance efforts.
Questions the law asks of a case include:
Is the property otherwise well-maintained?
How long was the spill present before the slip and fall injury?
Were employees neglectful of the spill, despite seeing it?
If outdoor ice was the cause of a slip and fall, had the owner worked to rid surfaces of ice?
If an object was on the ground and caused the fall, was that object there for a legitimate reason? If the answers to these queries lead to property owner negligence, a good claim for a slip and fall injury may exist. But it is important to look at personal carelessness and how the accident may have been a matter of human clumsiness or not seeing where you were going.
Most slip and fall accidents do involve some level of personal contribution to the resulting injury. People are often distracted when walking. “Comparative negligence” is a term used to describe the process of determination of where most fault lies, between the victim and the property owner. If you are determined to be where most of the responsibility lies, the property owner may be cleared of any negligence. But if the owner is found to be at least partially responsible, he or she may have to pay at least some of your injury damages.
— Considerations for Public Sidewalks —
Public sidewalks are particularly difficult to determine responsibility for, when a slip and fall occurs. Determination of negligence may be based on local ordinances and statutes. Adjacent landowners are often the ones who must ensure sidewalks attached to their property are well maintained and hazard free. For other sidewalks, the city may be fully accountable. These variances in government and civic accountability can obscure clarity on where responsibility is held for a sidewalk injury.
When faced with injuries resulting from a slip and fall accident, you need an experienced personal injury lawyer to help you determine where negligence lies in your case.