So, you are walking down the street, minding your own business. You are not on your phone, you are not listening to music, you are paying attention to where you are going and watching for traffic at crosswalks and driveways. A perfect pedestrian walking down the sidewalk in a perfect way. Then your toe catches on something and you fall forward to the ground. You look back and you see that the corner of the concrete slab of the sidewalk is much higher than one before it. Who is at fault?
While a pedestrian is responsible for watching where they are going and paying attention, there is no requirement to constantly scan the ground for hazards. There are many factors that go into determining the fault for a trip and fall, but at the end of the day, the owner of a property has a duty to keep that property in a reasonably safe condition.
Sacramento California is actually very lucky. We have a strong municipal system that responds to dangerous conditions and removes hazards from our sidewalks. When I walk around in midtown Sacramento CA I see spots where corners have been shaved down all the time. Sacramento is the City of Trees and prides itself on being full of green spots, but with trees come the dangers of tree roots disturbing the sidewalks and roads. Sacramento does a pretty good job of inspecting and correcting sidewalk issues so they can continue with their Urban Forest ideal without too much resistance from the public when the trees cause problems.
However, I still see height differentials. At Laskin Balma Attorneys at Law in Sacramento CA we have run into a city or a county (depending on who owns the road) knowing of a problem, but not doing anything about it right away. The City of Sacramento expects the owners of the property next to the sidewalk to pay for the repairs (even though the City is the one that demand trees blanket the area). It can take time to get an owner to decide if they want to hire someone or have the city do it and bill them. There might be negotiations involved and other delays. Simple steps can be taken to notify people of the danger, such as painting the raised lip a bright color to draw people’s attention to it, but oftentimes the people in charge of maintenance of the sidewalks don’t even do that. Part of the reason they don’t paint is so that if someone does trip and injury themselves, they can claim they had no knowledge of the defect.
In order for an owner or maintainer of a sidewalk to be found liable, a plaintiff must prove that the owner/maintainer knew or should have known about the defect. Regular inspections should be conducted in order to keep the public safe, so there really is no reason for the city, county, or property owners not to paint. A plaintiff is going to fulfill the should have known requirement without a problem. It is possible that they really have no knowledge of the raised lip, but they really should. In order to help the City and keep people safe, citizens in Sacramento California should report dangerous conditions of public property by dialing 311. A city inspector will check the area out and then notify the owner of the need for repair. The city also has a 311 app.
While the sidewalks are owned by the city, the city feels they should be maintained by the owners of adjacent property. But the city has the control over the sidewalk to maintain it, repair it, and change it. If the property owner wanted to take it upon themselves to remove a dangerous condition, they must get permission from the City of Sacramento before doing the work. That tells me that the City of Sacramento is at fault when you trip and fall on the sidewalk.
Need advice? Feel you have a potential personal injury case? Contact Laskin Balma Attorneys at Law in Sacramento California today.