Sidewalk Accidents Leading to Premises Liability Lawsuits
To get compensation for a slip and fall on a sidewalk, a victim will need to prove that the sidewalk owner was negligent. This involves more than just showing that the sidewalk was not in optimal condition. The sidewalk must have been in an unreasonably dangerous condition, and the sidewalk owner also should have known that the dangerous condition existed. If you cannot prove that the sidewalk owner actually knew about it, you can establish liability by showing that a reasonable property owner in their position would have known about it.
Evidence in Sidewalk Accident Cases
You should try to document any flaws in the condition of the sidewalk at the time that the accident occurred. You can take photographs of the scene as well as your injuries. The condition may change overnight if the hazard resulted from weather issues or if the city repairs the hazard, which can make it hard to prove the elements of the claim.
If the injury was related to the weather, such as ongoing snow and ice on a sidewalk, weather reports from the days leading up to and the day of the incident may be helpful to establish notice of the condition if the defendant had a duty to remedy it.
You might also want to investigate the records of the entity responsible for maintaining the sidewalk. A history of hazards in that area and reports of prior accidents can help you establish that the property owner should have known about the hazard. Getting this type of evidence may require retaining a lawyer, who will know how to handle the discovery process. Your lawyer may also retain experts to provide opinions on how long a hazard likely existed, whether a reasonable property owner would have discovered it, and whether any measures taken to address the hazard were sufficient.
Suing a Public Entity After a Sidewalk Accident
The owner of a sidewalk may be a private property owner, in which case you can bring a standard premises liability claim against them. If the owner is a government entity, on the other hand, you will need to take distinctive procedural requirements into account. Also, damages caps may limit the amount of compensation that you can receive, regardless of the extent of your injuries. Determining who actually is responsible for a sidewalk’s maintenance can be complicated, so you should make sure to investigate the accident promptly and identify all of the potentially liable parties.
Assuming that you need to sue a public entity after a sidewalk accident, you must adhere to the deadline for providing the entity with notice of your claim. You may have only a very short time to inform the government of the location of the accident, the events leading up to the accident, and your injuries. If you eventually need to go to court, you may also have a shorter statute of limitations than you would if you were suing a private property owner.
The laws of the state or municipality may define the specific government entity responsible for maintaining public sidewalks.
You should take care to identify and name the appropriate government entity, and you should send your notice of claim to that specific entity. Your claim could be dismissed if you name the wrong government entity, such as a city instead of a state, or even if you name the wrong branch of the right government entity. You also should make sure to describe the location of the accident as precisely as possible. A claim can be dismissed for lack of notice if the location is vague or slightly inaccurate.