Liability for Sidewalk Defects Causing Trips & Falls in New York
If you have tripped and fallen and suffered an injury due to a sidewalk defect, you probably want to know who is liable for your injuries. In the State of New York there are many rules and laws which govern who is liable for dangerous sidewalk conditions. Different Cities, Villages, Towns, and Counties have different rules. The following are rules govern New York City sidewalks. In New York City:
It shall be the duty of the owner of real property abutting any sidewalk, including, but not limited to, the intersection quadrant for corner property, to maintain such sidewalk in a reasonably safe condition
as set forth in Section 7-210(a) of the New York City Administrative Code. Thus all NYC property owners must maintain the sidewalk next to their property in a safe condition. Unsafe sidewalk conditions include, missing sidewalk flags (a sidewalk flag is the square section of sidewalk surrounded by scoring or joints); loose sidewalk flags; sidewalk flags that rock; height differential between sidewalk flags of 1/2 inch or more (i.e. a raised sidewalk); improperly sloped sidewalks; hardware on sidewalk being raised more than 1/2 inch (e.g. raised cellar doors) or in an otherwise dangerous condition; snow on the sidewalk and/or ice on the sidewalk. What is an unsafe sidewalk condition in NYC is laid out in New York City Administrative Code Sections 7-210, 16-123 and 19-152. However, the New York State Court of Appeals has held that there is no bright line test for whether a sidewalk defect is actionable or not, but each sidewalk defect must be evaluated for its own unique characteristics to determine wheter it is a trap or snare to pedestrians, or merely trivial in nature. The failure to maintain the sidewalk in a safe condition will result in the landowner being liable for injuries suffered due to the unsafe condition, where it can be shown that the landowner either: 1) Had actual notice of the unsafe condition; 2) Had constructive notice of the unsafe sidewalk condition, meaning that it existed long enough that the owner should have become aware of it; 3) Created an unsafe sidewalk condition; or 4) Used the sidewalk for their own special use (e.g. driveways; sign placement; displays; etc.). An exception to the rule that a property owner is liable for injuries due to unsafe sidewalk conditions is where the property contains a one-, two- or three-family residential real property that is (i) in whole or in part, owner occupied, and (ii) used exclusively for residential purposes. Thus a property owner who falls into this category will not be liable unless they 1) Created the condition 2) Made the sidewalk condition worse or 3) Used the sidewalk for their special use. In that case the City of New York may be liable for injuries suffered, if it can be shown that: a) The City of New York created the condition; b) The City of New York had proper prior written notice of the defect; or c) The City of New York used the sidewalk for their own special use or benefit. Who is liable for a sidewalk defect is not always clear. A one, two or three family home may be a rental or used for commercial premises and not exempt from liability. In additionthere may be other liable parties such as tenants, contractors, the Transit Authority, utitility companies, or other entities that use the sidewalk, created the condition or have hardware or equipmennt on the sidewalk. Different rules for sidewalk defects may apply outside of New York City. If you have tripped, slipped or fallen due to a dangerous, unsafe, or defective sidewalk condition, you should call a lawyer who is experienced in handling sidewalk cases. Zalman Schnurman & Miner PC is a NY law firm who is experienced in handling trip and fall accident cases. If you have further questions or are in need of a NY personal injury lawyer please call for a free consultation, our numbers are 212-668-0059 or 1-800-LAWLINE (1-800-5295463). All cases are handled on via a contingency fee, so there is no fee if there is no recovery.