Who Can I Sue After a Fall on a Public Sidewalk?

caution wet floor sign at a corridorMany Louisiana residents are unaware of their legal rights if they are injured in a situation involving a municipality. An example would be a case against the city of Baton Rouge for an injury caused by a fall on a public sidewalk. Imagine you’re strolling to meet friends for lunch in the downtown area. You are a few minutes late and pressed for time, but are still mindful of your surroundings. Despite being careful, you trip on a deep crack in the sidewalk and the fall takes you down hard. You instinctively put out your arm to cushion your fall, and in the process fracture your wrist and several bones in your hand. You also twist your left ankle badly.

X-rays pinpoint the bone fractures, and thousands of dollars later, you’re still in a cast and saddled with hospital and medical bills. Who is responsible for the defective sidewalk that caused your injuries, and can you sue for monetary compensation? While it’s true that government entities are responsible for the upkeep of hundreds of square feet of public sidewalks, they also create regulations to protect themselves against frivolous lawsuits.

Who is liable in a public sidewalk slip and fall?

If you are harmed because of a trip or fall on a public sidewalk, most states have strict deadlines for pursuing an injury claim against a local municipality. There may also be a limit on your potential recovery, meriting an immediate consultation with a qualified slip and fall attorney.

Slip and fall claims are typically filed under theories of premises liability. Injuries are suffered because of the negligent maintenance or unsafe condition of the property in question – whether it’s a sidewalk, a parking lot, a stairwell or an interior floor. While a sidewalk fall may not appear serious, they can have life-altering consequences, leaving victims with broken bones, spinal cord damage, and permanent hip and knee injuries.

Premises liability claims may be challenging because there are several elements which need to be established. If you are severely hurt due to a defect or poorly maintained public sidewalk – one that your local municipality neglected to fix– you may have a viable claim for damages.

Burden of liability may rest with the municipality

A lot will depend on the circumstances and location of the accident. For instance, if the patrons of a retail establishment are the sole individuals who regularly use a city-maintained sidewalk, the business owner might share some legal responsibility in its maintenance. The courts may favor the plaintiff in claims where obvious hazards, such as uneven segments, holes and other defects, have been observed but not repaired.

With competent legal counsel, victims may be able to argue that the liability resulting from a defect in a public sidewalk lies with the municipality, or a private property owner. Compensation may be awarded if the courts find that the defendant failed to exercise reasonable care in the proper upkeep of the sidewalk, or left the dangerous condition as is, despite an unreasonable risk of harm to pedestrians. In situations where a city has been notified multiple times of dangerous sidewalk defects but neglected to take action, victims may have a much stronger chance of winning money damages.

Protecting your rights after an accident

If you have been hurt on a public sidewalk in Louisiana and need the guidance of an experienced Lafayette slip and fall lawyer, Bart Bernard can help you achieve justice. Do not hesitate to contact our Baton Rouge or Lafayette, Louisiana offices with any questions. For a free case evaluation, call today.

Additional “Public Sidewalk Slip and Fall” Resources:

  1. Case Western Law Review, Liability of a Municipality for Defective Sidewalks http://scholarlycommons.law.case.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3737&context=caselrev
  2. Louisiana State Legislature, RS 13:5109 https://legis.la.gov/Legis/Law.aspx?d=77941



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