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  • Writer's pictureDennis McGrath

Trip and Fall Accidents

Updated: Sep 16, 2020

Everybody has tripped on a sidewalk at some time. Whether the trip is caused by negligent construction or a lack of maintenance and repair, sidewalks can become dangerously cracked and defective. When this hazard is neglected, the conditions grow more hazardous by the day. Suffering a personal injury from tripping and falling on cracked or uneven sidewalks can result in a lawsuit against a negligent party. Who you can sue for your injury depends on where the sidewalk is located.

Responsibility for sidewalk maintenance varies. In some places, uneven sidewalks are the result of negligent property owners and they are responsible for any resulting injuries. In some places, municipalities or city government is responsible for the defect. Depending on the details of the accident and resulting injury, both personal injury and premises liability cases may be made.

Common Trip and Fall Injuries

Hazardous sidewalk conditions which you may encounter daily include:

  • Uplifted pavement from tree roots

  • Large cracks caused by freezing and thawing

  • Sinking pavement slabs due to changing soil

  • Un-repaired crumbling cement

  • Unmarked construction or warning of a potential construction hazard

The dangerous conditions of a defective sidewalk can lead to:

  • Broken or fractured bones

  • Concussion or brain injury

  • Severe sprains

  • Lacerations or bruising

  • Wrongful death

Even the most cautious individuals can fall victim to uneven sidewalk injuries. Some hazards are unavoidable even when pedestrians are being careful. No one should have to feel the pain of these injuries due to lack of proper care for a public space. In order to understand who is responsible for a slip/trip-and-fall accident on a sidewalk in New York, one must first understand the state’s premises liability laws.

New York premises liability dictates that property owners have a legal duty to maintain their properties in a “reasonably safe” condition. This includes repairing cracked cement and smoothing out uneven areas. They are also responsible for making sure proper precautions are taken to warn of any construction. However, the definition of “reasonably safe” if often litigated in court on a case-by-case basis.

If the property in question proves to be in “reasonably safe” condition, the owner cannot be held liable for any injuries. The burden of proving that sidewalk conditions were unsafe falls on the victim, and the law tends to favor property owners.

Falling on another person’s property does not guarantee a successful lawsuit. The injured victim must be able to prove the following key points:

  • The property owner was in some way responsible for providing reasonably safe care to the public

  • The property owner caused the defective conditions, knew of them, or should have known about the dangerous conditions and failed to repair them in a fair amount of time

  • The hazardous condition was directly responsible for causing the injury

  • The injury sustained resulted in economic loss, pain and suffering, and/or other additional damages

What to Do after a Trip and Fall

New York’s statute of limitations gives victims three years from the date of the slip-and-fall accident to take legal action against a property owner. However, the sooner the claim is filed, the stronger the case will be. There are several crucial steps a victim should take that will help get the ball rolling:

  • Call an ambulance or seek medical attention as soon as possible. It is essential to document all injuries and record all medical opinions.

  • If possible, take photos or video of the exact location of the accident and any hazardous conditions. It is essential to provide pictures from the scene to prove it was unsafe. Record statements to go with the pictures as soon as possible; memory of the incident may fade quicker than expected.

  • Note any witnesses and collect their contact information and statements if they are willing. Several witness statements can corroborate a strong claim.

  • Keep records of any and all instances of pain and suffering endured from the date of the accident. This will help legal teams build a strong case for recovering non-economic damages.

  • Contact your attorney to take proper steps in protecting your rights

Trip and Fall Cases against a Property Owner

As of 2003, owners of businesses and rental properties are responsible for maintaining sidewalks that connect their properties. If a trip and fall happened on a regular commercial property sidewalk, it is necessary to prove that the hazard was present long enough to have been fixed before the fall. This means one must prove that the owner knew or should have known that the damage was present in the first place.

Examples of Finding Proof

With surveillance technology and programs like Google Maps, property owners may be forced to admit that the damage was present for a few months or even years. Other times, personal testimony or records of calls and complaints have been recovered to prove notice was provided to the owner. Failure of the owner to act on these notices are clear evidence of negligence, but property owners will always fight for the injured victim to share the blame.

Comparative Negligence in New York Trip and Fall Cases

Slip and fall lawsuit will likely result in the property owner arguing that the accident was also caused by the injured victim. If the property owner is able to successfully prove this, the injured can expect to lose a portion of their settlement in proportion to how much fault the court determines they share.

For instance, the property owner could argue:

  • The victim was on a part of their property where people aren’t allowed or expected to be

  • The victim was distracted or not paying attention to their surroundings

  • The victim neglected to abide by signage or indicators of the dangerous condition

  • The victim obviously recognized the damaged condition of the sidewalk, and continued to pass over it anyway

Based on these potential claims, it’s important to build a strong case that details the owner’s liability. It’s the job of an attorney to advocate on the injured victim’s behalf to ensure they receive maximum compensation.

Free Consultation with a New York Trip & Fall Attorney

Filing a sidewalk injury lawsuit against any property owner can be daunting—especially if the sidewalk is owned by the government. The attorneys at McGrath Klaus & Associates are waiting to pursue your injury claim against the at-fault party responsible for your pain.

Call us today at 516-500-7711 for a free consultation and evaluation of your case.

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