If you happen to slip and fall while on a public sidewalk, you’re probably wondering who is liable for your injuries. Before this question can be answered, it’s important to take a step back and find out if there is anyone liable. It’s important to understand that all personal injury cases require at least one party to be negligent. There is no liability if there is no negligent party. This article will provide you with useful information on slip and fall lawsuits for accidents occurring on sidewalks.
Proving Negligence in Cases Involving a Slip and Fall
If you’re going to win a case involving a slip and fall, you’ll need to prove that the property owner was negligent. Basically, it must be proven that the property owner did something wrong that caused your injuries. It’s nearly impossible to prove negligence if you just slipped and fell on a person’s property and tried to go after them for damages. The same concept applies to public sidewalks.
You can’t automatically win a personal injury case if the sidewalk was in a condition that caused you to slip and fall. The key to proving negligence involves proving that the sidewalk was in an unreasonably unsafe condition, which caused you to fall. To really prove that the property owner was negligent, you must be able to show that the property owner was aware of the unsafe conditions and failed to do anything about it.
Liability for Public Sidewalks
The party that is liable for a slip and fall on a public sidewalk depends on the laws in your state. In some cases, it might even depend on the homeowner’s deed.
The law for some states says that the municipality is the party responsible for maintaining public sidewalks. However, not all state laws are clear and easy to understand. Depending on the state, the property owner or municipality could be liable, or they could both be liable.
Special Liability Rules If the Municipality is Responsible
If you happened to get injured from a slip and fall accident on a public sidewalk, and the municipality is found to be liable, then there are some limitations when it comes to suing the municipality. Most states have these limitations. The first limitation involves adhering to strict time and notice deadlines. Put simply, you’ll only have a limited time to send notice and act on your injuries.
If you don’t file your claim by the deadlines defined by your state, you won’t be able to sue for damages. The other limitation is for how much you can sue the municipality for. Most states have a limitation that prevents you from recovering more than a set amount if you win the case.
Notice and Time Deadlines for Town and City Claims
Although the deadlines are different from one state to the next, they can include:
- A very short window of time to notice the appropriate town or city department. In many cases, the deadline is only 30 days. When notifying the correct department, you’ll need to send a written letter and detail the exact circumstances and location of where the accident occurred.
- In many cases, the deadline might be shortened, which is the statute of limitations for the specific city or town.
There are some states that apply these guidelines very strictly while others aren’t nearly as strict. Some states will block your claim if you happen to send it to the wrong municipal department. The correct department might even be just down the hall from the department you send your claim to, and if it’s not the correct department, the city or town may block it.
Bringing Your Claim to the Appropriate Entity
It’s also important that your claim is against the correct governmental entity. For example, imagine you trip, fall and suffer injuries on a sidewalk that crosses over a state highway.
If you only give notice to the city, and the state law says the state highway department is responsible, then the city cannot be held responsible for your injuries. In this example situation, you would need to give notice to both the state and local municipal departments.
Proving Liability In The Event Of a Sidewalk Fall
If you’re ever involved in a sidewalk fall, it’s very important to take pictures of the sidewalk, injuries and clothes. Proper documentation of the scene can make all of the difference in proving liability. You never know if the city is going to fix the sidewalk the day after you’re injured. In the event you slipped on snow or ice, the scene can literally melt away within minutes, so you need to document the conditions.
Without pictures showing the sidewalk conditions at the exact moment of your injury, it’s nearly impossible to prove liability and win your case. When you’re dealing with a slip and fall case, a picture is worth more than a thousand words.
However, you might also need additional evidence, which might only be attainable by a lawyer. An example of such evidence is the complaint history for the portion of sidewalk that caused your injuries. You cannot win your case just by showing that the sidewalk was dangerous. You have to prove that either the property owner or municipality were negligent.
Let’s say, for example, that the city had received several complaints about a broken sidewalk, knew about the issue for several months and did nothing about it. If the sidewalk caused your injuries, you would have a pretty strong case against the city.
Benefits of Legal Representation
Interpreting legal guidelines for slip and fall lawsuits is complex and requires a thorough understanding of the law. If you have been involved in a slip and fall accident on a sidewalk – contact The Brown Firm PLLC to discuss your case. We offer free initial consultations so that you can understand your best options before moving forward with a lawsuit.