Cracked Sidewalk Injury Lawyer
In this article, we’ll break down:
- Who is liable if you’re injured in a cracked sidewalk trip and fall accident?
- How to prove the public entity was negligent
- How will your lawyer prove the private owner was negligent?
- A cracked sidewalk trip and fall accident which settled for $100,000
- Steps to take if you’re the victim of a cracked sidewalk trip and fall
We’ve all been there. Tripping over your own two feet while walking down the road can certainly bruise your ego. But when you are injured from a fall caused by a cracked sidewalk, you’re likely to ask who is responsible for your injuries.
That answer depends on multiple factors, including who owns the sidewalk.
Why Do You Need to Determine Who Owns the Sidewalk?
When you begin looking into liability, sidewalk ownership is your starting line. Whether the owner of the cracked sidewalk is a municipality or private business makes a difference in how you and your lawyer will proceed with your case.
The owner of a public sidewalk can be one of several entities depending on where the sidewalk is located. While most public sidewalks belong to the city or municipality they rest upon, sidewalks that connect major roadways or highways could, depending on the road, belong to the Florida Department of Transportation. Sidewalks that venture past city or municipality limits may be owned by the county.
Liability goes beyond ownership, though. This is especially important in cases involving sidewalks covered by joint municipal contracts. A sidewalk may be owned by one municipality but maintained by another. There are instances where this makes sense for both municipalities. But regardless of the reason, if a municipality agrees to maintain a sidewalk, it may be liable for a cracked sidewalk accident if its failure to maintain the sidewalk caused the accident.
A privately-owned sidewalk has a private owner rather than a municipality, city county, or another public owner. The maintenance of sidewalks alongside commercial properties like grocery stores, office buildings, and condominiums, is almost always the responsibility of the private business to maintain.
Ownership of the business, however, does not immediately mean that liability rests solely on the shoulders of the owner. Why? First, if the business operating out of the commercial space is a tenant and not the owner of the building, liability could fall back on the landlord. For this reason, many commercial landlords specify that maintaining the exterior spaces of the building is the responsibility of the tenant.
Second, landlords and tenants often hire other businesses to maintain their exterior spaces, including the sidewalk. So, if a hired maintenance company fails to properly maintain a private sidewalk, it may be held partially liable for the accident.
How Will a Cracked Sidewalk Injury Lawyer Prove Negligence if Your Fall Occurred on a Public Sidewalk?
Your personal injury lawyer will issue discovery (through interrogatories, requests for admissible evidence, depositions, etc.) to find out who owns the sidewalk where the accident occurred, as well as the entity responsible for its maintenance.
If you were injured on a public sidewalk, records should be fairly easy to discover.
Your lawyer should also look at what plan the municipality has in place to maintain its sidewalks. This includes its maintenance process and budget. Depending on the size of the municipality, there may be no process at all. Many take the stance that they simply have too many sidewalks to keep tabs on and, therefore, default to citizen reports of cracked sidewalks to know when it’s time to bring out a maintenance crew for repairs.
Also, keep in mind that cracked sidewalks can have multiple causes. Some cracks take years to develop while others happen unexpectedly. The difference in whether the sidewalk was uprooted by tree roots over time or cracked by a construction vehicle overnight can have a significant impact on whether the municipality was aware of the danger and failed in its non-delegable duty to maintain its public spaces.
Proving Negligence If You Were Injured by a Private Cracked Sidewalk
While your injury may be the same, proving negligence against a private owner of the cracked sidewalk requires a different process and approach than when going up against a public entity.
Privately-owned commercial spaces, like condominiums, retail stores, and office buildings, have a non-delegable duty to maintain the safety of their patrons, employees, residents, or any other guest on its property.
As we discussed above, if the owner of the building is a landlord and has an agreement with their tenant stating the tenant is responsible for maintaining the property, then liability can point to that tenant. In these cases, though, you and your lawyer shouldn’t stop with the tenant. Like municipalities, private property owners have a non-delegable right to maintain the safety of their property. So, you may be able to prove partial negligence on both the tenant and landlord depending on your particular case.
Your lawyer should also be on the lookout for cracked sidewalks that border between public and privately-owned land. Often municipalities try to pass ordinances to push the responsibility of sidewalk maintenance onto the private landowner. The important detail here is whether the municipality made the landowner aware of the ordinance. If the municipality didn’t give the landowner proper notice, it may still be liable and responsible for the private sidewalk’s maintenance.
An Example of a Cracked Sidewalk Injury Case that Settled for $100,000
We recently represented a client who tripped over a cracked sidewalk while walking at night. He was unfamiliar with the area and tripped over a sidewalk cracked by tree roots that had uprooted multiple concrete slabs. As a result, he injured his shoulder and suffered pain and extensive medical bills.
Our office successfully proved that the city was negligent due to its failure to uphold its non-delegable duty to care for its citizens and maintain its sidewalk.
Circumstances including the injury occurring at night on a poorly lit sidewalk that our client was unfamiliar with helped point the finger of liability to the city rather than our client. By proving negligence, our firm settled the case for $100,000 which covered the extent of our client’s damages.
Steps You Should Take If You’re the Victim of a Cracked Sidewalk Trip and Fall Accident?
Remember that regardless of who owns the sidewalk and who’s responsible for maintaining it, the burden is on you as the victim to prove that your injury was the result of negligence in order to settle your claim.
There are things you should do immediately following your accident:
- Take Pictures.
Capture visual evidence of the sidewalk, your injury, and the surrounding area. Take a variety of close-up shots of the cracked sidewalk and photos at a distance to show multiple vantage points of the surrounding area.
- Get Their Public Records.
If you were injured on a public sidewalk, speak to the public works department, and ask for records of sidewalk maintenance, past inspections of the sidewalk, any complaints of deteriorating sidewalk conditions that went unanswered, etc.
- Hire a Sidewalk Injury Lawyer Who Has Experience Dealing with Government and Public Property owners.
The sooner you begin to work with a trip and fall lawyer, the sooner you’ll have an advocate helping you recover the damages you need to make you whole again. Hire a lawyer who has experience with governmental law in Florida, including someone who knows how to navigate gathering evidence from a governmental agency.
If you or a family member were injured in a cracked sidewalk trip and fall accident, consult with an injury lawyer, who has spent 38 years examining accident facts, applying the law, and effectively asking juries to render verdicts for his clients.
Call Alan Sackrin Today to Get a Free Case Evaluation
Alan Sackrin offers a free initial consultation (over the phone or in-person) to answer your questions. When you’re ready to speak with a personal injury lawyer about your case, give Alan a call at 945-458-8655.