Can I sue if I Trip and Fall over a raised NYC Sidewalk?
There are many ways that a sidewalk can be unsafe, but one of the most common causes of an unsafe sidewalk is when the sidewalk is unlevel or raised, when part of the sidewalk is higher than the other. A pedestrian can bring a claim for injuries caused by a raised sidewalk in the City of New York. However, the mislevel must create an unsafe sidewalk condition to be actionable. A cement or concrete sidewalk usually consists of squares called flags or flagstones. The reason for this is to allow joint space between the squares for expansion. The most common cause of a raised or mislevelled sidewalk is a tree root forcing one of the sidewalk flags higher. Another cause of a mislevel sidewalk is part of the sidewalk settling. A third cause of a raised sidewalk is water seeping below the sidewalk and a freezing and thawing cylce lifting part of the sidewalk up. Cracks is the sidewalk can also cause an unlevel condition. Regardless of the cause, if someone trips and falls on a sidewalk due to one part of the sidewalk being higher than the other, they can sue if a "reasonable person" would find that the condition was a trap, snare or hazard to pedestrians. There is no bright line rule as to how high the difference in the sidewalk must be, but the courts will dismiss a case if they believe the raised condition was "de minimus", or insignificant. Whether a hazard is "de minimus" is based upon the facts of each case and condition, and the courts will look at not only the height differential, but also the location, the lighting, the coloring, and other factors. The definition of what constitutes a hazardous condition in the City of New York can be found in the New York City Administrative Code. The NYC Administrative Code sets forth that if one sidewalk flag (square) is more than 1/2 (one-half) inch higher than the adjoining sidewalk flag (square) then it is a hazardous condition which must be repaired. Some industry standards also consider a mislevel of more than 1/2 inch to be dangerous, while still other standards consider any height differential in excess of 1/4 (one-quarter) of an inch to be dangerous. Mislevel sidewalks are dangerous to pedestrians because pedestrians are usually looking ahead, and a defect directly below them can be hard to detect. If you or someone you know has been injured due to a raised or unlevel sidewalk, you should contact an attorney who handles personal injury cases. Zalman Schnurman & Miner is a New York City Personal Injury Law Firm that handles cases caused by raised, unlevel and mislevel sidewalks, as well as all other types of injury cases. If you need a New York personal injury lawyer that handles sidewalk injury cases call 1-800-LAWLINE (1-800-529-5463) for a free consultation. All cases are handled on a contingency fee basis, so there is no fee unless there is a recovery.