If you've tripped or slipped on a sidewalk outside a home or business, then you may wonder who is at fault for your injuries. However, it can be complicated as to who is actually responsible. In many cases, it isn't clear and depends on what city you live in and what caused you to fall. Here are some ways either the homeowner or the city may be liable if you slip or trip on a public sidewalk.
Where the Homeowner is Liable
Depending on where the injury occurred, the homeowner may be responsible for most or all maintenance of the public right-of-way (aka sidewalk). In other areas, the city is strictly liable for these areas. Even in areas where the city is responsible for the maintenance, the homeowner may still be liable if they have voluntarily taken it upon themselves to do repairs and maintenance. They would also be responsible for hazards they leave out on the sidewalk such as hoses or tools.
Where the City May Be Liable
In some states, such as California, cities or the local government agency assume all liability and maintenance of all public right-of-ways. This includes repairing uneven pavement and holes. However, liability is not always clear in areas where there is snowfall and ice. In some parts of the country, the city is responsible for almost all maintenance except for clearing snow and ice in front of residences. This would then be the homeowner's responsibility. The same goes for keeping the sidewalk clear of twigs and leaves.
Where No One Is Liable
There are times when you might be responsible for your own injuries no matter what the law says about maintenance. If the hazard is clearly obvious and easily seen, then you will be responsible if you are injured. For example, if you can clearly see that the pavement is uneven or that there is a hose on the ground, then you have to take due diligence to avoid the issue. Another situation is during or just after a storm. If you slip and fall during this time, before anyone even has the chance to clear the sidewalks, then your case may be difficult to prove.
In general, if is clear that someone was negligent with keeping the sidewalk maintained and clear, and you are injured, then you may have a personal injury case. However, in many cases, it may be difficult to determine who is at fault. That's when you should contact a personal injury attorney to see if you have a case.