If you’ve ever slipped on a poorly maintained sidewalk in the wintertime or tripped and fallen on an uneven surface, you’re not alone. The National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI) reports that falls account for over 8 million emergency room visits while slip and fall accidents account for over 1 million ER visits. According to David Resnick, slip and fall injury in NYC of David Resnick & Associates, PC, slip and fall accidents are also the most common claims in premises liability lawsuits, meaning that owners and occupiers of a property may be held legally responsible for injuries that take place on the property. If you become unfortunate enough to become injured in a slip and fall accident, whether on public or private property, it’s important to know who’s at fault.
Falling on Public Property
Whether you live in a small town or in a big city (also known as a municipality), your municipality is responsible for a certain amount of maintenance on public streets and sidewalks, however, much of the responsibility depends on the nature of the accident. For example, if you simply fell on a sidewalk or street, your municipality is not instantly responsible for your injury. Additionally, if you trip and fall due to a drainage grate on the street or sidewalk, your municipality may not be responsible as the grate should be visible and serves a purpose. You may, however, have a claim against your municipality if you trip and fall in a hole or on a broken section of a street or sidewalk.
While ice and snow are some of the most common factors in a public slip and fall accident, it is often more difficult to place responsibility on your municipality.
How to Handle a Slip and Fall or Fall Accident
Before you can determine liability, after an accident on public property, you will need to document your accident the best you are able. Take a slip and fall accident on an ice covered sidewalk, for example. First of all, as you should with any type of accident, take as many pictures as you can. When it comes to a sidewalk covered in snow and/or ice, the conditions can change quickly (ie. melting) so it’s important to take a picture of the sidewalk as soon as you can. Additionally, you should document your injuries, such as bruising or abrasions, and your clothing if it was damaged in the fall. If someone witnessed your fall, it’s a good idea to get their contact information as well, as their account may be helpful in your claim.
If you have become injured on a sidewalk or street where the surface may be damaged, have a hole, or is in poor condition, document it the same way you would if it were covered in snow or ice.
If you plan on filing a claim against your municipality, it is important to gather all the pertinent information and act quickly. Depending on where you live, there may be a short window of time to file your claim. Make sure that you are contacting the right department and if you are unsure of how to proceed, always consider consulting a lawyer who specializes in slip and fall accidents.
While you may have a legitimate claim against your town or city, it’s likely that you will be asked about your own carelessness. For instance, when you were injured, were you doing anything that distracted you from paying attention to where you were going? Did you have a legitimate reason for being where the dangerous area was? Were there any clear markings that the area was potentially hazardous? Were you simply failing to be careful?