Who Is Liable for a Sidewalk Slip and Fall?
Have you slipped and fell on a sidewalk recently? There are several reasons people injure themselves on sidewalks, whether it’s a crumbling block, an uneven area, or icy conditions. If you’ve injured yourself on a sidewalk, who is responsible for your injuries? Do you have legal grounds for a personal injury suit? Here’s the simple answer: it depends. If you still have questions after reading the following information or would like to discuss the specifics of your case, consult an experienced Atlanta slip and fall lawyer.
A Matter of Negligence
As with all personal injury cases, the success of your slip and fall claim hinges on proving the property owner was negligent. In some cases, there is no negligence – you can’t sue a property owner for damages simply because you slipped and fell. You must prove a defective condition existed and that defect directly led to your injuries.
In a legal sense, the key word here is “unreasonably unsafe.” A property is unreasonably unsafe when an owner either knew or should have known about a defect. Let’s take a look at a couple of examples:
- You’re walking in the middle of a snowstorm, slip on a patch of ice, and fall. Here, the property owner likely isn’t responsible for your injuries. Since you’re walking in inclement weather, you can reasonably assume to encounter ice.
- Let’s say now that you’re walking two days after a snowstorm and slip and fall on packed down snow. The town has ordinances that say owners must clear their sidewalks within 24 hours. In this case, you may have legal grounds for a claim.
Who Is Responsible for Your Injuries?
If negligence led to your injuries, the next step is determining who is liable. Unfortunately, there’s no clear cut answer. Liability varies not only by state but municipality and even the conditions of a homeowner’s deed. It’s often the homeowner’s responsibility to maintain a sidewalk’s upkeep, but, in certain cases, it’s the city or town’s.
If it is a municipality’s responsibility, there are a couple of things you need to know:
- Lawsuit filing deadlines against government entities are notoriously tight. Generally, you have two years to file a personal injury lawsuit. Lawsuits against the government are different. It depends on the municipality, but, in some cases, filing deadlines can be as short as 30 days. If you’ve been injured on a sidewalk and think the government may be liable, it’s essential to contact an attorney as soon as possible.
- Hire a local attorney familiar with applicable filing deadlines and laws. Filing paperwork incorrectly or missing a deadline, even if only by a few hours or minutes, can cause a judge to throw out your case. Sticking with a local Atlanta personal injury attorney ensures you’ll meet all your filing deadlines.
If a homeowner is liable for your injuries, you’ll likely pursue a claim against their homeowner’s insurance. In some cases, you may be able to pursue a claim beyond their insurance payout (if their policy covers these types of injuries at all).
What You Can Do
If you’ve been injured in a slip and fall accident, there are a couple of things you can do to help your case:
- Take as many pictures as possible. Photograph the accident scene before they can get rid of the evidence: otherwise, you might run into a case of “he said, she said.” The more objective evidence you can provide a jury, the better.
- Seek medical care. See a doctor for treatment and be sure to offer specifics about how the injury occurred. This makes your injuries a matter of official record you can use in court.
- If you require rehabilitation or follow-up care, keep all your appointments. Failure to follow a doctor’s orders may ultimately affect your settlement.
For questions about sidewalk slip and falls, contact an attorney with experience in this kind of personal injury law.