What Constitutes a Defective Sidewalk?

By Peter DePaolis

Personal Injury Attorneys Fighting for Victims of Defective Sidewalks in Washington, D.C.

A defective sidewalk can lead to a plethora of devastating injuries – from slips and trips to broken bones, facial lacerations, or even a traumatic brain injury (TBI). However, what constitutes a defective sidewalk versus a person’s natural clumsiness? How would that determination affect your ability to collect compensation if you were injured from that sidewalk-related injury?

Remedying issues from a defective sidewalk is typically something the city is responsible for doing. When the city fails to remedy these defects, and a pedestrian is injured, there are legal ramifications.

Can You Sue for a Defective Sidewalk?

If you were injured while walking on a defective sidewalk, you must first determine who is responsible for the injury and prove the following four elements, which include:

  1. The Duty of Care – First and most importantly, you must demonstrate that there was a duty of care owed to you and other individuals using the sidewalks. This means that the person responsible must keep them in reasonably safe conditions. Reasonably safe does not mean “free of all injury potential.” Instead, it refers to unreasonable conditions, such as an obvious tripping hazard; owners must ensure that they are adequate for the amount and type of foot traffic they receive.
  2. Breach of the Duty – Next, you must prove that the city failed to remedy the defect. In other words, it violated its duty to maintain the sidewalk’s condition.
  3. Causation – Causation, or proximate cause, refers to the fact that the defect in the sidewalk and the city’s lack of response to that defect were the cause of your injuries. You must show that it is more than probable that the sidewalk’s defect caused your injury in order to meet the demands of proximate cause.
  4. Notification – While that path might have led to your injury, and the city failed to fix it, you must prove that the city was aware or should have been aware of that defect. Realize that the city manages thousands of miles of sidewalks; therefore, every minute detail is not readily reported. However, if the city was notified and had adequate time to correct it, but did not, then you might have the notification proof you need for a settlement.

Say, for example, that a person has already slipped and fallen on a sidewalk due to the defect. Therefore, the city knew that a previous injury occurred. However, it decided to wait on repairing the defect. Several months later, another person is injured. In this case, the city had notification and plenty of time to rectify the hazard, but failed to do so.

Should You Consult an Attorney Regarding Your Injuries on a Defective Sidewalk?

Anytime when you suffer injuries on government property, it is imperative that you speak with an attorney. The process of filing a claim against a government agency is highly involved, and even though the city is liable, you have specific protocols that you must follow to file your claim successfully.

For assistance with your injury case, contact Koonz McKenney Johnson & DePaolis LLP for a free case evaluation. You can call one of our three offices directly or connect with an advocate online.

About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.