A primary concern for pedestrians is the risk of slips, trips, and falls. “Falls account for over 8 million hospital emergency room visits, representing the leading cause of visits (21.3%),” says the National Floor Safety Institute (NFSI). (1)
New York City Sidewalks
Because of the risks to the public, every city is concerned about the upkeep of its sidewalks, including New York City (NYC).
An annual claims report indicates 11% of personal injury claim settlements and judgements were for sidewalk injuries in 2021, according to the Office of the Comptroller for NYC. The report explains there were 2,134 sidewalk personal injury claims costing the city $61.7 million. (2)
Causes of Sidewalk Accidents
It is clear why NYC sidewalks are of concern. Even more important is knowing why accidents occur.
Some of the primary reasons slip, trip, and fall accidents occur on NYC sidewalks include: (3)
- Obstructed view — “When a pedestrian encounters an unexpected obstacle or impediment and does not perceive it in their route of travel, trips and falls occur,” according to one expert. He continues, “Pedestrians typically scan ahead in the direction of their travel, not directly down in front of their feet. Low elements in the path of travel are not readily identified and are frequent causes of falls resulting in injury.” (4)
- Oily surfaces — Oily surfaces are not always visible; they do not all have a rainbow sheen about them. (5) Footwear also can lead to fall injuries on oily surfaces. Oily surfaces require shoes with anti-slip properties such as waterproof material, rubber soles, and flats versus high heels or open toes. The type of shoe is important because shoes can help distribute weight more evenly to maintain balance. (6) (7)
- Poor lighting — Low light, broken lights, and darkness can lead to falls. Improper lighting can also create glare. Worse yet, poor lighting may make objects, surfaces, or other obstructions invisible, increasing the fall risk. Glare from streetlights can cause discomfort and be disabling for pedestrians, cautions a Department of Energy (DOE) report. (8)
- Snow or ice — “Snow was a predictor of a high-fall day,” found one recent study. Also, “previous studies found that 56% to 74% of winter storm-related injuries result from slipping or falling on snow or ice.” (9) Falls on snow and ice are a direct result of the amount of adhesion involved. “Slips on wet surfaces for example, are caused by too little traction (or friction) between the foot and the surface being walked on.” (10)
- Uneven pavement — “Walking is easiest and safest on stable, planar, flush, and non-slippery surfaces,” observes one specialist. He explains how deficient and defective sidewalks can be hazards. Hazards include broken or cracked concrete, vertical displacements involving separation or heaved slabs, settled areas where water collects, and tree root damage. “Abrupt changes in walkway elevation that contrast poorly with the surrounding walkway material make it likely to blend in visually with the surrounding environment,” and can lead to falls and injuries. (11)
Regardless of the cause of your sidewalk accident, you can be badly hurt.
Were you or a loved one injured in a sidewalk accident? You may be eligible for compensation.
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Injuries Suffered from Sidewalk Accidents
Sidewalk accidents can result in minor to severe injuries, even death. Some of those injuries include:
- Head or traumatic brain injury — Falls can lead to traumatic brain injuries (TBI). (12) “Nationally, nearly 17,500 fall-related TBI deaths occurred” during one year reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (13)
- Back injuries — Among the most damaging back injuries resulting from falls are spinal cord injuries (SCI). One study found, “Falls on the same level from slipping, tripping, and stumbling were the most common cause of fall-induced SCI (20%).” (14)
- Hip injuries — “Of all fractures from falls, hip fractures are the most serious and lead to the greatest health problems and number of deaths,” says the National Floor Safety Institute (NSFI). (15)
- Broken or sprained ankles — One study on ankle fractures found there were over 673,000 ankle fractures during a four-year period. “The most common mechanism of injury was falls (54.83%).” (16)
- Wrist and elbow injuries — Bruising, cellulitis (a bacterial infection), wrist fracture, radial-head fracture, and shoulder dislocation can all result from falling on an outstretched hand says Temple Health. Recovery can take weeks to months. (17)
- Knee injuries — “Knee injuries suffered on concrete involve some kind of blunt force with direct contact of the knee with the concrete.” Knee injuries can include a dislocated kneecap, thigh and shin bone fractures, sprains, meniscus tears, and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries. (18)
- Pulled muscles — Pulled muscles are strained muscles. This injury affects the muscle tissue or the band of tissue attaching the muscle to the bone. The lower back, back of the thighs, legs and ankles, hands and elbows are places most likely to experience a strain. (19)
- Cuts and bruises — Cuts are wounds to the skin inflicted by force, such as by falling. When long or deep, cuts may require medical attention. (20)
Who Is Liable for a Sidewalk Accident?
If you have suffered a severe injury from a sidewalk accident, you want to determine who may be liable for your injuries. Often, NYC may not be liable for sidewalk accident injuries. (21)
In NYC, the property owners are responsible for maintaining safe sidewalks. Two sections of the New York City Administrative Code (Sections19-152 and 7-210) apply to property owners regarding sidewalks adjoining their property. (22)
Determining who owns the sidewalk is key to your case. These are some possible property owners.
Companies who do business in the city, and have a real property, are responsible for sidewalks adjoining their property. (23)
A business is also responsible for sidewalk areas near, but not abutting, the property. For example, a business owning a corner property or lot is responsible for the corner sidewalk. It is also responsible for the intersection quadrants adjacent to its property. (24)
Homeowner Associations (HOAs)
In NYC, “Since 2003, owners of real property adjoining a sidewalk — including co-op and condo boards, but excluding owners of one-, two-, and three-family homes — are responsible for maintaining the sidewalk in a ‘reasonably safe condition,’” according to Habitat Magazine. (25)
“In the context of cooperatives or condominiums, this means that boards bear ultimate responsibility for the sidewalk maintenance — even if day-to-day responsibility has been delegated to a contractor or to the building’s staff under supervision of the managing agent,” continues Habitat. (26)
NYC property owners must maintain the sidewalk and vacant lots adjacent to their property. This including the fencing or repairs of sinkage on those lots. (27)
You can hold a homeowner responsible if you were seriously injured on the sidewalk in front of their home. You may also hold them liable if you were hurt on a lot adjacent to their home. This is especially true if the lot was unfenced or had areas where there was sinkage. (28)
NYC repairs sidewalks on City-owned property and in limited residential neighborhoods. (29)
For instance, you may be able to hold NYC accountable for your injuries if you fall on a sidewalk in front of a government building or a City-owned park. However, if you fall on a sidewalk in a residential neighborhood, NYC may not be responsible. (30)
If you or a loved one suffered an injury from a slip or fall on a sidewalk, contact us for a free case review.
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Ways to Protect Your Rights After a Sidewalk Accident
After a serious injury from a sidewalk accident, you want to protect your legal rights.
As with any accident, there are immediate steps you should take.
- Seek medical attention as soon as possible. Your attorney can use medical records, bills, and receipts as documentation for your legal claims.
- Take pictures. Photograph the accident scene, clothing you are wearing, and your injuries. Pictures provide vital support for your claims.
- Get the names and contact information of witnesses. If possible, obtain witness statements.
Filing a Lawsuit
You should reach out to an attorney as quickly as possible after any sidewalk accident during which you are injured. Accident cases often have time limits for filing a lawsuit.
These time limits differ by state and municipality. In NYC, there are special requirements placed on filing a personal injury lawsuit when one of the parties involved is a municipality.
There are many other legal requirements you need to meet for your lawsuit to have the best chances of success. An experienced attorney can assist you through this process.
How W&L Can Help
If your case goes to court, the outcome is typically a verdict for one side or the other. However, many cases are settled out of court.
Either way, Weitz & Luxenberg personal injury attorneys are proud to help our clients achieve the best possible outcomes for your cases.
Some of our successful cases include:
- Substantial settlement in challenging traumatic brain injury case. An apartment building owner was in violation of NYC’s Administrative Code and state law.
- Major six figure settlement reached in brain damage case. During a flight, a suitcase fell from an overhead bin on an airplane, striking a passenger in the head
- $10 million awarded for loss of sight. It was due to an inadequate bungee cord in a negligently designed brake system.