One Took the High Road, Another Took the low Road, and I Took the Sidewalk: Why you Should Walk on City Sidewalks Instead of Roadways.


Most people are taught to walk on sidewalks, rather than on roadways as it is unquestionably safer. While this is reason enough to stay off roadways when traveling on foot, there is another added benefit to the choice when one is in New York City.

The added benefit comes from the fact that while most New York City sidewalks are the responsibility of the abutting property owner or business, the City of New York is liable for the vast majority of roadways; unsurprisingly, it is much easier to recover proper compensation in a lawsuit from an insurance company for a property owner or business, compared to in a lawsuit against the City of New York.

The owner of property abutting the sidewalk in New York City is always responsible for maintaining the sidewalk in a safe condition. If the abutting property is used for commercial purposes (i.e. stores, restaurants, office space, or residential rentals) the abutting property owner will be liable for damages suffered due to the unsafe sidewalk. If the abutting property is a one, two, or three family home, and is occupied by the owners, then the City may be held liable for injuries suffered due to a dangerous sidewalk condition.See NYC Administrative Code Section 7-210.

In order for the City of New York to be held liable for an injury due to a street or sidewalk defect, such as a trip and fall due to a pothole, the victim of said accident must show that the City of New York had “prior written notice” of the defect, created the defect, or used the location for their “special use”.In layman’s terms, “prior written notice” means that the city government must have been made aware about the roadway issue prior to the incident in question, either through a written complaint filed with the NYC Department of Transportation, or by other recognized means.

While the government may claim the “prior written notice” policy is necessary, as it is purportedly impossible for them to be aware of all defects in a large city, there is no question that the policy makes it more difficult for victims to recover compensation for their injury. Now, remember most sidewalks are not maintained by the City of New York, but by business or homeowners; this often makes it easier to recover proper compensation in lawsuits, particularly because successful civil lawsuits against business and homeowners do not need to show “prior written notice”.

There are exceptions to the general rule. So it is important to consult with a lawyer experienced in handling sidewalk and roadway trip and fall accidents in New York. Do not just rely on what you read here, or any other website. Furthermore, there are shorter deadlines for bringing a claim against the City of New York, compared to bringing a claim against a private property owner.


If you somehow needed another reason to walk on the sidewalks rather than on the roadways, than let this be it. If you have tripped and fallen on a roadway or sidewalk, you should contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to consult. For a free consultation contact the law firm of Zalman Schnurman & Miner P.C. at 1-800-LAWLINE (1-800-529-5463).

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