Tripping on a Sidewalk: Who Is Liable?

Many of Orange County’s sidewalks have seen better days. Not only do tree roots break up the pavement, but other natural conditions can render the sidewalk dangerous to walk on. It is no surprise that pedestrians have brought several lawsuits against the city in past years for compensation after suffering injuries.

At RMD Law, we have been helping injured pedestrians for decades. And we know how to bring trip and fall cases against a municipality when it fails to uphold its duty to keep the public safe.

Are Sidewalks Public Property?

May clients ask us, “Who is responsible for sidewalk repair?” The answer to this question will differ by city, but in California sidewalks are public property. This means that sidewalk repair responsibility falls to the city, and they can be held legally responsible when their failure to maintain the sidewalks results in someone’s injuries.

When Must the City Repair a Sidewalk?

Cities are under enormous financial stress. They must carefully ration their revenue because of so many competing demands. For this reason, cities are not required to fix every small crack in a sidewalk or to keep them in pristine condition. That is simply an unrealistic expectation.

Instead, your lawyer will need to look at the condition of the sidewalk, as well as other factors. For example, a sidewalk with major cracks and several inches of uneven pavement is clearly dangerous. However, smaller cracks are probably too minor to warrant correction. If the unevenness of the pavement measures no more than half an inch, then the sidewalk might not be so bad that it warrants repair.

How Do I Prove My Case?

To receive compensation, injured pedestrians must prove that the hazard caused them to fall. Probably the easiest way to do this is to take a picture of the crack or pothole in the sidewalk. You can use your smartphone if you have it on you. If not, borrow someone else’s phone or ask them to take a picture for you. The key is to take a picture before the hazard is corrected—which should not be difficult given that cities are not anxious to repair their sidewalks.

You also will need medical records to show the severity of your injury after the fall. Go to the doctor or hospital and report your injuries. These medical records can come in handy later when making your claim.

Remember to hold onto all bills and receipts for anything you purchase related to your injuries. For example, if you need to buy prescription drugs, then keep the receipt. These documents will help you show your economic losses. Generally, our clients can be reimbursed 100% for the money they spent to treat their injuries.

What is the Process for Suing a City?

Suing a municipality is different than suing a private citizen. If you tripped on someone’s driveway, then you could go into court and sue. However, to sue a government agency, you need to first give that agency notice of your claim.

As an initial matter, the state and its municipalities are immune from lawsuit. Fortunately, they have waived this immunity so long as injured victims follow a process for making a claim. The purpose of the claims process is to give the city a chance to settle the lawsuit outside of court. If the city goes ahead and rejects your claim, then you can go to court and sue, just as you would sue someone else.

One of the advantages of working with a law firm like RMD Law is that we have extensive experience making claims against city governments, so we will meet all deadlines and submit the proper paperwork. If you do not meet the deadlines, then you might forfeit forever your ability to receive compensation. To protect your rights, you should hire an experienced attorney to serve in your corner.

Contact an Orange County Pedestrian Attorney Today

Pedestrian accident can leave you bloodied, bruised, and thousands of dollars poorer thanks to missed work and medical expenses. To get the compensation you deserve, please reach out to an experienced pedestrian accident lawyer at RMD Law now.

We can review your case and help you identify the agency to contact about your claim. We can take over the case entirely, allowing you to focus on your family and your recovery.

Please call or contact us online to schedule your free, no-risk consultation. Avoid delay. California law gives you only 6 months to sue a city, otherwise you might forfeit your claim.

Aria Miran
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