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Sidewalk Falls

Steven Winig is highly experienced
								in sidewalk fall cases

Sidewalk Falls

Steven Winig has over 30 years of history
							with winning personal injury cases

The sole purpose of a sidewalk is to provide pedestrians with a safe path to travel. However, in reality, sidewalks often pose many threats of their own, which often lead to accidents.


Cracked, chipped, broken and overgrown sidewalks are a clear sign that the city or the responsible property owner has failed in their duty to keep it properly maintained. That negligence can lead to a serious accident.

COMMON CAUSES OF SIDEWALK FALLS

Some of the most common causes of sidewalk falls include:

  • Cracks in the sidewalk;
  • Insufficient maintenance of the sidewalk;
  • Snow and ice;
  • Potholes;
  • Uneven pavement;
  • Slippery materials, such as excessive mud, gravel, loose sand or mossy vegetation;
  • Debris, such as tree limbs, children’s toys, trashcans, etc.;
  • Tree roots pushing through the surface.

Any one of these conditions could cause serious injury, including twisted ankles, broken wrists, fractured hips, and even head trauma and neck and back injuries.

WHO MAINTAINS THE SIDEWALK?

If for some reason, you block a sidewalk there is a good chance you will get a ticket for blocking a public pathway. As most of us know this, you would think that since it is considered a public pathway that implies your local municipality is also accountable for its maintenance.

Unfortunately, this is usually not the case. Where the liability lies is often something that needs investigation, because most often the parties liable for maintenance have no clue of their duty. A thorough investigation at the outset of the case will be key to success in the courtroom.

In around half of the cities in Florida, as the Sun-Sentinel reported, homeowners are either completely or in part responsible for the care of sidewalks in front of their property. If that is the case, a personal injury suit would be brought against both the municipality and the insurance of the homeowner.

In Del Rio v. City of Hialeah, a 2005 case held before Florida’s Third District Court of Appeal, it was established that even if the municipality is responsible for the care of the sidewalk, if an adjacent private property owners contributes to or causes the hazardous condition that because to the injury, they may be held liable as well.

In some cases, stretches of sidewalk are the states responsibility. The Florida Attorney General’s Office issued a 2008 legal advisory opinion that stated jurisdiction for a sidewalk’s maintenance remains with whoever managed it as of mid-1995, barring any mutually agreed legal transfer of jurisdiction.

When a sidewalk’s condition poses a danger, a notice is customarily sent to both the municipality and the responsible property owner. Those notices can be used to prove negligence if they do nothing to repair the sidewalk.

Sovereign immunity complicates lawsuits against government entities. It is a legal doctrine that states governments are immune from most personal injury lawsuits, unless that protection is waived. Some municipalities do waive sovereign immunity for sidewalk injury claims, though it often depends on the exact nature of the suit.

INJURIES RESULTING FROM SIDEWALK FALLS

If injured in a sidewalk fall, seek treatment immediately. Do not just assume that you have no legal recourse because it is a public sidewalk, or because you believe the fall was your own fault.

Compensation from a personal injury lawsuit may be reduced if the injured party shares some culpability (called “comparative fault”), but that does not mean the parties responsible for the care of the sidewalk are not also liable. Review our opening section on premise liability for additional information on comparative fault.

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'The Winig Law Firm, P.A.
1615 Forum Place, Suite 3A
West Palm Beach, Florida 33401
T: (561) 337-2997 | F: (561) 683-1559