When you’re injured on a sidewalk, legal responsibility often hinges on who owns and is responsible for sidewalk maintenance. Because tripping, slipping and falling can result in major injuries, filing a lawsuit against the responsible party can help offset the cost of medical bills, lost wages and other expenses.
Public vs. private sidewalks
Sidewalks may be public (those separating private property from a public road) or private (such as walkways on a private commercial, industrial or residential complex). However, responsibility for maintenance varies depending on local laws.
While municipalities are often responsible for public sidewalks, some smaller cities and suburbs may place the burden on private residents. In those areas, residents may be responsible for clearing debris outside their homes or offices and otherwise making sure there are no slipping, tripping or falling hazards.
Private sidewalks are nearly always the property owner’s responsibility. For example, if you trip on a broken walkway in your apartment complex, the landlord may be held liable.
It’s important to understand local sidewalk maintenance laws before filing a personal injury lawsuit. Depending on where you live, there may be specific procedures for seeking relief.
Defenses in sidewalk personal injury lawsuits
There are several defenses to sidewalk accident cases. First, if the sidewalk hazard was “open, obvious and easily avoided,” the injured person often bears some responsibility for their accident.
While governmental immunity may not apply to injury claims against the government, following local procedures is key. Many municipalities have extremely location-specific rules, which determine how, when and against whom you may file a lawsuit. It’s crucial to work with a personal injury attorney: otherwise, you may miss important deadlines or file against the wrong party. Your lawyer can also determine whether you may bear any fault, under local laws, for your injury.
If you’ve been injured on a public or private sidewalk, call the experienced accident lawyers at Goldman, Babboni, Fernandez, Murphy & Walsh in Sarasota, FL today.