With about 11,000 miles of sidewalk in Los Angeles, it is no surprise that the city can’t keep up with the repairs necessary to keep every block in good condition. L.A. sidewalks get a lot of wear and tear too, with thousands of pedestrians traversing the city on a daily basis.
When a section of sidewalk inevitably falls into disrepair and the city fails to fix it in a timely manner, it can pose a serious risk to pedestrians. Runners and the elderly are particularly at risk, but anyone on foot can potentially slip, trip, and fall due to a faulty sidewalk.
What Are My Rights After a Fall Caused By an Uneven Sidewalk?
If you fall and injure yourself due to a poorly maintained sidewalk, you may be able to sue the responsible party. Through a personal injury lawsuit, you may be able to recover the cost of your medical treatment and any lost wages, as well as compensation for your pain and suffering.
Who is Responsible For a Defective Sidewalk?
Property owners are responsible for keeping their property safe for all those who use it. Although some sidewalks may be privately owned, most are owned by either the state, county, or municipal government. In L.A. that means the city is more often than not the responsible party when an uneven sidewalk causes an injury.
One exception to this rule is that when a sidewalk is damaged by the growth of a tree underneath it, the owner of the tree is responsible for the sidewalk’s dangerous condition. Therefore, in certain cases, a private property owner may be held liable for a tree on their land that grows under a public sidewalk.
Can I Sue the City After a Sidewalk Trip and Fall?
Just like any private person or company, a city can be held liable for its failure to maintain safe conditions on its property. Suing a city in California, however, is more difficult than suing a private entity.
Suing any government body in California for negligence requires filing a claim within six months of the accident. The government then has 45 days to respond. If the agency denies the claim, you then have six months to initiate a lawsuit. This is significantly less time than the usual two-year statute of limitations for most California personal injury claims.
Due to the shortened time limit to bring claims against the city, it is important to find a lawyer well-versed in personal injury claims against the government.
What Might Hurt My Case?
Watch out for the following factors that might mean weakness in your defective sidewalk claim:
- There was only an inch or less of displacement in the sidewalk.
- Your injuries were minimal or did not require medical treatment.
- You were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident.
It’s best to bring your case to an experienced attorney. They can help you navigate an injury claim and fight to get you the money you deserve.
How Can I Win a Lawsuit Against the City Over a Dangerous Sidewalk?
If you suffered an injury from tripping over an uneven sidewalk, the City of L.A. is unlikely to simply pay you for your troubles. You will have to fight to be compensated. You can maximize your chances by keeping the following things in mind:
Preserve evidence. If you are able, take pictures of the uneven sidewalk at the time of the incident, including multiple angles that clearly show the extent of the defect. If you can’t take pictures at the time, return later or have a friend revisit the site. You may even want to preserve the shoes you were wearing as evidence.
Follow your doctor’s treatment advice. This is important not only for your health and well-being, but also for your case. If you do not follow treatment advice, your failure to do so may be blamed for any lingering injuries–rather than the sidewalk trip-and-fall.
Don’t sign anything without talking to an attorney first. After an accident, the party at fault or their insurance company may try to persuade you to settle your claim quickly. Don’t agree to anything until you learn the value of your case from an expert.
Hire a lawyer who specializes in this type of accident. There are a lot of lawyers out there, but not all have experience suing a municipality. It is essential to find someone who knows the ins and outs of this type law to advocate for you.