In last month’s column, we discussed the topic of slip and fall accident cases, and focused mostly upon falls caused by snow and ice. We now continue with this type of case, but this month from a different perspective.
Fall Down Accidents on Public Sidewalks
Slip and fall cases comprise a large percentage of our practice. The White Plains accident attorneys at Worby Vecchio Edelman LLP have handled innumerable fall down cases over the nearly forty year existence of the firm. The rules are simple enough when a fall occurs on private property, such as a homeowner’s walkway or the parking lot of a commercial property owner. The rules become much more complicated when a fall down accident occurs on a public sidewalk.
Sidewalks are owned by the particular municipality in which they are situated. However, many municipalities require the abutting property owner to maintain that sidewalk, at the property owner’s expense. For example, New York City has an ordinance (NYC Admin. Code §7-210) which mandates that property owners maintain an abutting sidewalk in a reasonably safe condition. The New York City Code specifically includes snow and ice maintenance. It even includes a requirement to reconstruct, repave and repair or replace defective sidewalk flags. That Code does not apply to an owner of one, two, or three family residential property that is in whole or in part owner occupied, and used exclusively for residential purposes. Obviously, the City’s Code is steered toward liability upon commercial property owners, and not individual homeowners.
New York City Sidewalk Accidents
The key aspect of the New York City law is that it grants an accident victim the right to sue the property owner for damages if the Owner violates that law. Many local municipalities – towns, villages and cities – in Westchester County have similar ordinances which require an abutting landowner to maintain the sidewalk in front of their premises, with no exemption for the owners of one, two or three family properties. However, not all Westchester municipalities impose liability for an accident victim’s injuries caused by a failure to do so. The confusing aspect of this arises by a requirement set forth by the New York Courts which states that the Code must specifically impose individual liability upon the property owner in order for that owner to be liable for an accident victim’s injuries caused by their failure to maintain the sidewalk. If a municipality does not impose liability upon the property owner, there would be no way to successfully sue the property owner whose failure to reasonably maintain a sidewalk causes someone to fall.
Insurance companies are quick to argue that that quirk in the law means that you cannot sue a property owner for damages even if an injury was caused by the Owner’s violation of the law that required that Owner to maintain the sidewalk. However, there are successful counters to that argument, such as when the condition on which the accident victim fell was caused not by Owner’s failure to maintain the sidewalk, but rather by the negligent placement of shoveled snow on a sidewalk.
Contact our White Plains Accident Attorneys
An accident caused by a failure to maintain a sidewalk, especially in a situation where the law requires a property owner to do so, seems simple enough to handle. The fact is that premises liability is an extremely complex area of personal injury litigation. Make sure that you choose the right law firm to handle your case. When you retain the accident attorneys at Worby Vecchio Edelman LLP, you’re retaining a firm with experts in the field. While each case is primarily the responsibility of one attorney, cases are discussed a daily basis, so that all of our attorneys have input into our cases. We’ll tell you if we think you have a case, and we’ll tell you if we think you don’t have a case. We communicate with our clients to make sure you understand the process. We’ll also answer all of your questions, and we offer a free, no obligation consultation, and we don’t charge a fee unless there is a recovery.