Can I Sue if I Fall on a Sidewalk?
Walking, jogging or running in California is only as safe as the surfaces beneath your feet. A walkway or sidewalk with defects, such as cracks, ice or uneven surfaces, puts people at risk of serious fall accidents. Every year, thousands of people are injured in slip or trip and fall accidents in California. If you were injured in a fall on a sidewalk, find out who may be responsible for your injuries and medical bills.
Who Is Responsible for Sidewalk Maintenance?
A fall accident on a sidewalk is different than one on someone’s property, such as at a private residence or business. It can be more difficult to understand who owns or is legally in charge of maintaining the sidewalk. There might not be an obvious person to blame, either, such as a store employee for failing to clean up a spill. This does not mean, however, that someone injured in a fall on a sidewalk does not have legal options.
The first step in filing a sidewalk accident lawsuit is identifying the owner or possessor of the property. This could be a private property owner if the sidewalk was on someone’s land, such as an individual’s driveway or a storefront. If your accident occurred on a public sidewalk, however, the city or state government is the party responsible for property safety and maintenance. You may need help from a Los Angeles slip and fall lawyer in identifying the owner of the defective sidewalk.
Claims Against the Government in California
The California Tort Claims Act controls injury and negligence claims against the government. If the defective sidewalk was on public property, you will need to follow specific rules to bring a claim against the government. First, you will have a shorter deadline to file. The statute of limitations on a normal slip and fall claim in California is two years. If you are suing the government, however, you will have just six months to notify the government agency. Then, you will have to wait at least 45 days to hear a response before you can file a lawsuit.
How to Prove a Sidewalk Fall Claim
Once you determine the responsible party (defendant), you will need to collect evidence of that party’s fault for your slip and fall. In general, a sidewalk fall can result in a lawsuit in California if the owner of the premises knew or reasonably should have known about the sidewalk defect but failed to make timely repairs. It will be up to you or your attorney to establish proof of the owner’s negligence.
- The property owner owed you a duty of care. You must be a lawful guest (an invitee or licensee) on a property, not a trespasser, to be owed a duty of care.
- The property owner breached a duty by failing to inspect the sidewalk for defects, failing to repair defects or failing to warn visitors of known hazards.
- The property owner’s breach of duty caused your fall accident. There must be a direct link between the owner’s negligence and your fall.
- You suffered compensable damages because of the fall. Finally, you must have evidence of your compensable fall-related losses, such as medical bills and lost wages.
With proof of these four elements, you will be able to successfully establish the defendant’s liability (legal responsibility) for your sidewalk fall accident. Be prepared, however, for the comparative negligence defense during your claim. This defense alleges that you contributed to the accident yourself, such as by texting and walking. In California, comparative negligence could reduce your recovery award. A lawyer can help you argue against this defense.
For more information about your sidewalk fall accident claim, consult with an attorney. An attorney can help you identify the defendant, go up against the government or a private party, and fight for fair compensation for your injuries and losses.