It’s pretty easy to figure out who is at fault when you slip on a freshly mopped, but unlabeled, floor at the grocery store. But determining fault for a premises liability case becomes a little trickier when what you’ve tripped over is an uneven sidewalk.
Before you go worrying about who is at fault, it’s important to take a few steps immediately following your accident. After medical needs are taken care of, determining who is at fault will depend upon where it was that your accident took place. Afterward, the defendant will try to prove that you share some of the fault for the accident. Thankfully, New York is a pure comparative negligence state. More on that in a moment.
What Should You Do If You Trip On an Uneven Sidewalk in New York?
The most important thing to do after suffering from a slip and fall accident is to seek medical attention. If you are seriously injured, call 911. If you are able to get yourself to the hospital then this can be a more budget-friendly approach.
This step is important because it gives you professional and official documentation of your injuries. You have no case if you weren’t injured in some form, so seeing a doctor quickly allows you to get documentation of the injury right away.
Next, go back to the scene and take photos of the area. If you were with a friend or family member, it’s a smart idea to have them photograph the scene immediately while you get help. If possible, they could also ask around to see if there were any witnesses to the accident that you can contact at a later date.
When taking photos of the scene, focus on the exact location where the accident took place and how it relates to the buildings nearby. Make sure to also take photos of the uneven part that you tripped on, as well as the general conditions of the street at that time. Finally, take lots of photos of the injuries you sustained; it is even a good idea to keep a photo log of how they heal. All of this will give you more evidence to build a case on.
Who Is Responsible for Maintaining the Sidewalk in New York?
The responsibility of sidewalk maintenance will typically fall on the owner of the property that the sidewalk is connected to, as set out in New York City Administrative Code 7-210.. In cases where the sidewalk is in front of a multi-unit building then it will be the responsibility of the owner of the building, rather than the residents of the building.
However, this isn’t always the case. For example, if the sidewalk you tripped on was in front of a one, two, or three-family home then the responsibility will not fall on them. Note, though, that a three-family home must be used as a place of private residence for the owner to not be responsible for the upkeep of the sidewalk out front.
It used to be that the city itself was responsible in these situations but that changed in 2003 when it shifted sidewalk maintenance responsibilities to the property owners. But there are still some circumstances where the duty of upkeep falls to the city.
If the sidewalk is on a public property or a public area, and if the sidewalk therein fails to be maintained to city standards, then the city could be at fault. The city is also responsible for maintaining safe walking areas near construction zones; a failure to properly mark the construction and leave notices can also make the city liable.
If you are looking to sue the city for damages then it is important to realize that you will have a much tighter schedule to work with. You’ll only have a small window of time to make the city aware of the accident; a failure to inform in time will leave you unable to pursue legal action for your trip and fall.
How Does Pure Comparative Negligence Affect the Outcome of My Slip and Fall Case?
Regardless of who is at fault, chances are high that they are going to attempt to defend themselves against your claims so that they won’t have to pay you any damages. Unfortunately, slip and fall cases of this nature can be quite difficult to win 100%. After all, there are many factors at play when it comes to tripping outside.
For example, the property owner may try to show the court that you were distracted by your cell phone and it was this inattention that led you to trip and fall on the uneven sidewalk on their premises. Or, another tactic, might be to show that it was a particularly windy day and it was this weather condition that was ultimately responsible for your fall.
It might be disappointing to hear this but in many slip and fall cases, it is true that there are multiple factors that work together to cause the accident. It is also common that the courts will agree with this assessment.
Thankfully, New York is a pure comparative negligence state and so you don’t need to show that the blame is exclusively that of the property owner. Instead, the damages you would be awarded will be reduced based on the percentage of blame you shared for the accident. So if the fault was 20% that you were looking at your cell phone but 80% the uneven sidewalk, then you would be awarded 80% of the damages.
What Should I Do If I Slip and Fell On a Sidewalk in New York?
First, follow the advice above for what to do immediately after tripping on an uneven sidewalk. Afterward, contact The Law Office of Thomas Lavin and speak with us. We’ll be able to see if you have grounds for a lawsuit and we’ll help you work through all of the steps necessary for you to get the damages you deserve.