Sidewalk Slip and Fall: Whom Should I Sue?

When running, jogging, or walking, you can easily overlook defects in the sidewalk and take a painful fall. Property must be adequately maintained in a way that is mindful of possible dangers to others. If you can prove the entity who owns the sidewalk showed negligence in its maintenance—known as premises liability—they may be liable to you for your injuries.

Common Causes of Sidewalk Accidents

Sidewalks create many dangers for people traveling on them. Poor maintenance exacerbates this problem. Thousands of miles of sidewalks in Los Angeles alone have critical damage that could result in injury. Some of the more common causes of sidewalk accidents include:

  • Large cracks,
  • Irregular repair,
  • Unsafe weather conditions,
  • Bumpy pavement,
  • Unsecured debris,
  • Abandoned items, and
  • Degraded construction materials.

You can directly pin some of these causes, such as poor maintenance and sidewalk cracks, on the owners. In these situations, proving sidewalk slip and fall liability may be relatively straightforward. However, with natural causes such as ice and snow, it can be more difficult to blame a property owner. You’ll have to show that they did not take steps to address the condition in a reasonable time.

Injuries Caused by Falls on Sidewalks

Slip and fall lawsuit.Sidewalk slip and falls might sound innocuous, but falls represent one of the leading causes of injury in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that at least 36 million Americans suffer injury-causing falls every year. Of these 36 million, three million people sustain injuries severe enough to warrant treatment in the emergency room. Sidewalk injuries can include:

  • Bone fractures,
  • Heavy bruising,
  • Internal bleeding,
  • Spinal injuries
  • Brain damage, and
  • Lacerations.

Any one of these injuries could result in hospitalization and lost time off of work. After an injury, getting medical care should be your priority. Once you get the care you need, you can then consider holding a party liable for your injuries.

Who Can You Hold Liable?

Before filing a sidewalk slip and fall lawsuit, you must first determine what party is responsible for your injuries. There are two primary types of entities that may be responsible—private parties and the government.

Private Parties

Private parties may own large apartment buildings or even just a residential home. If they are responsible for maintaining a sidewalk adjacent to their property, they can be held liable for injuries it causes. Whether through homeowners insurance or liability insurance held by a company, the possibility for sidewalk accidents should be accounted for. Filing a suit against a private entity proceeds according to standard rules of civil procedure, with a two-year statute of limitations deadline to file your claim.

Government Entities

Whether it be municipal, state, or federal, the government controls a large portion of frequently used sidewalks. Statutory regulation exists to shield the government from liability, making it more difficult to sue than private parties. The main instrument of this protection in California is the California Tort Claims Act.

The law generally prevents lawsuits against the state government but creates certain exceptions. One of these exceptions is premises liability cases in which the government was given notice of a dangerous condition and did not remedy it. The essential elements of the negligence claim remain the same, but procedures differ. When holding the state government liable, you must first provide notice within a strict six-month time period. This notice must contain very detailed information about the accident and your injuries, or it may be immediately denied. The California Tort Claims Act makes it more difficult to file lawsuits against the state government, but not impossible. In fact, over a five-year period in Los Angeles, 1,700 sidewalk accident cases were filed, and over $35 million in damages were paid out to victims.

How to Prove a Sidewalk Fall Claim

Sidewalk slip and fall liability is based on the legal theory of negligence.  Every property owner has a duty to maintain a safe environment for guests on their property. A negligence claim requires proof of the following four basic elements:

  • The defendant (the party who owns the sidewalk) owed a legal duty to you;
  • That party breached their legal duty;
  • You suffered actual injuries, and
  • The breach was the cause of your injuries.

The sequence of events could go like this in a sidewalk slip and fall case. First, a property owner becomes disinterested in a little-used sidewalk adjacent to their building. The sidewalk falls into disrepair, gaining a large crack running perpendicular to the street. This crack is allowed to remain for months and months, and even after hearing complaints from neighbors, the property owner does not fix it. A local jogger runs over the sidewalk crack and sustains a fracture to his leg. In this case, because of the failure to repair the sidewalk even after being continually put on notice about it, the property owner will most likely be found negligent and be liable for the damages caused to the jogger.

However, comparative negligence is one possible defense the sidewalk owner could use to guard themselves against liability. California is a state which recognizes a form of comparative negligence known as pure comparative negligence. This means that if the injured party is found to have been negligent leading up to their injury, this negligence offsets the amount they can claim in recovery. For example, the property owner might have camera footage of the jogger watching a video on their phone while running. If they can show that the jogger was even partially at fault for their accident, the property owner will be able to reduce the amount of compensation they must pay the jogger.

Our Team Is Here to Help

If you suffer an injury in a trip and fall accident in California, do not hesitate to reach out to the legal team at Henderson Law today. Our team has recovered over $10 million for our clients. We will listen to your story, and we know how to fight for the compensation you need for your injuries. Contact us now.