Sidewalks, over time, often become uneven, slippery, cracked, or otherwise dangerous. This can happens because of tree roots growing under the pavement, freezing and thawing, irrigation systems, or normal wear and tear. Sidewalk falls can cause serious injuries including
- Fractured bones
- Knee injuries
- Herniated disc
- Rotator cuff injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
Responsibility for sidewalk maintenance
Sidewalks are usually built by municipalities for the use of the public. Nevertheless, the owners of property that adjoins a sidewalk may share the responsibility for maintaining it in a safe condition. If someone slips, trips, or falls on a defective sidewalk and is seriously injured, there may be more complicated liability issues than in some other types of premises accidents where ownership of the property, and thus the maintenance responsibility, is more clear cut.
The shared responsibility for keeping municipal sidewalks in safe condition and warning the public of unsafe conditions can cause uncertainty about who is responsible when you’ve been injured and want to make a claim to recover damages. In sidewalk fall injury cases it’s important to have an experienced trip and fall accident attorney on your side who knows how to identify the party responsible for the condition that led up to the accident.
What are common defenses claimed by the property owner or municipality?
The property insurance company for the owner of the premises adjoining the sidewalk or the municipality that owns the sidewalk will typically try to avoid paying on a claim for damages in any sidewalk fall accident. Some defenses insurance companies often raise in accidents are
- The injured person did not use reasonable care to avoid a hazard that could be plainly seen and was therefore fully or partly responsible for his or her own injury.
- The defect in the sidewalk was so inconsequential that it would not have caused a normal person to fall.
- The injury is not consistent with the type of fall and therefore could not have been caused by it.
- The insured was not responsible for maintaining the sidewalk.
Do I really need a lawyer?
You are always entitled to negotiate a settlement yourself, but you should be aware that with the complexities and potential questions of liability, it is not something that the uninitiated will accomplish with ease. It is common for an insurer to make a low settlement offer in exchange for a full release. You should know, however, that claimants who attempt their own settlements often receive only a third of what those with skilled legal representation get in compensation.
Your lawyer will launch a full investigation of the incident, which will include determining who is liable for the condition that caused the injury, gathering witness statements, photographing the accident scene, and obtaining medical records and employment records to prove your losses.
Some people don’t contact a lawyer because they think it costs too much. In actuality, you need no money at all to get the best legal representation available, because we work with you on a contingency fee arrangement. You pay us nothing unless we win money for you, and our fees come out of the settlement.
If you or a member of your family has been injured in a sidewalk accident because of someone’s negligence, call the Seattle, Washington sidewalk accident attorneys at Wattel and York for a free, no-obligation evaluation of your fall case. We help the injured face up to insurance companies, corporate owners, or government entities who want to avoid their responsibility of compensating you for your losses from your accident.