As a personal injury lawyer, people frequently ask me whether they can sue for injuries if they fall on an uneven sidewalk or broken sidewalk. In order to answer this question, I need to look at the specific circumstances of your case. Sometimes people fall because they were careless. However, in other cases, people fall because of a hazardous condition of the property. In addition, the damages caused by a trip and fall accident vary greatly. Some people get up, brush the dirt off, and are otherwise fine. In other instances, slip and fall accidents cause serious injuries such as broken bones, torn ligaments, traumatic brain injuries or herniated discs.
Some questions that a lawyer may ask when evaluating your trip / slip and fall injury case include:
- Why did you slip / trip and fall?
- Can you describe the property defect that caused you to trip or slip
- Where did you fall?
- When did you fall?
- What type of footwear were you wearing?
- What were you doing when you fell?
- Were you injured?
- Did you seek medical treatment for your injuries and if so, what was the diagnosis?
- Were there any witnesses to your fall?
- Is there video surveilence in the area?
Who is Responsible for the Condition of a Sidewalk in Philadelphia?
Since the 1800s, statutes in Pennsylvania have authorized municipalities, such as the City of Philadelphia, to require owner of real estate abutting the sidewalk to keep the sidewalk in good condition and repair. Philadelphia requires the sidewalks of all public and private streets to be “graded, curbed paved and kept in repair at the expense of the owners of the land fronting thereon.” See Code Section 11-505(1). Thus, the property owner fronting the sidewalk has the primary responsibility for the condition of the sidewalk, including maintenance and repair. However, tenants or occupiers of land can agree to take over this responsibility which is commonly known as an absentee landlord.
In addition, the City of Philadelphia may be secondarily liable to an injured pedestrian for failing to enforce the owner’s duty by either citing the owner and requiring a needed repair, or by repairing a defect in the sidewalk and collecting the cost by means of a lien on the property. If a defective condition of the sidewalk is caused by the actions of the City of Philadelphia it will have primary liability for damages arising from the defect.
Does the Property Owner Have Liability Insurance?
In most cases, property owners carry homeowners insurance for liability purposes. Homeowners that have a mortgage are usually required to carry homeowners insurance by the lending company. Homeowners insurance will protect a property owner’s assets in the event that a personal injury claim is made because of a defect on a sidewalk.
What Should You Do if You’re Injured in a Trip and Fall Accident on Broken Sidewalk
If you suffer a serious injury you should seek necessary medical treatment immediately. After seeking any needed emergency medical attention, you should take the following steps to preserve your legal rights:
- Take pictures of the defective sidewalk. Make sure you take some close up photos as well as pictures that show the greater area surrounding where you fell.
- Get the name/address/telephone number of any witnesses to the incident
- Report the fall to the property owner. Be careful not to admit fault or make admissions that can be used against you later. Most commercial property owners have employees such as security guards or store managers dedicated to risk management. They will immediately begin building a defense of your claim and note items such as other contributing factors, your footwear/clothing, admissions such as “I was distracted”, whether you reported that you were OK or not injured, if you appeared drunk or high, items you were carrying, whether you were wearing glasses etc.
- Contact an experienced trip and fall attorney right away. A lawyer can help evaluate your claim and protect your legal rights.
Brent Wieand is a personal injury lawyer in Philadelphia who regularly handles trip / slip and fall injury claims. He has significant experience litigating premises liability claims and will fight hard to get you compensation for your losses. For a free legal consulation with Philadelphia slip and fall lawyer, Brent Wieand, call 1(800) 481-5206. Attorney Wieand never charges a fee unless he recovers money for you through a settlement or award.
Disclaimer- This article does not constitute legal advice. If you have questions about a slip and fall claim you should consult an experienced attorney for personalized legal advice.