Pedestrian Guide: Sidewalk Accident Lawyers in New York City
Most people are taught from a young age to walk on the sidewalk because it will keep them safe from accidents or injuries, but this isn’t always the case. There are serious sidewalk accidents that occur on the streets of New York City, some of which result in severe injury or even death.
New York City has over 12,000 miles of sidewalks that are designed to keep New York City pedestrians safe but, as you will see, often fail to do so.
If you or a loved one has been injured on a New York City sidewalk, reach out to our experienced New York City sidewalk accident attorneys to learn more about your options.
Common Causes of Sidewalk Accidents in New York City
Pedestrian sidewalk accidents usually fall into one of two categories. The first is when distracted drivers run off the road and onto the sidewalk. The other is when pedestrians walking on poorly maintained sidewalks trip and fall, due to a broken or uneven sidewalk flag, and become injured.
Sidewalks can become dangerous due to lack of maintenance, neglect, or temporary conditions that are not quickly repaired.
Common examples of unsafe sidewalks include:
- Collapsed sidewalks
- Sloping sidewalks
- Icy, wet, or slippery sidewalks
- Cracked or broken sidewalks
- Hardware that protrudes through sidewalks
- Large gaps between sidewalk slabs
- Salt, sand or debris left on the sidewalk
- Poor visibility due to missing street lamp
Injuries Resulting From Sidewalk Accidents
Unsafe sidewalks are common through each of the five boroughs, and unfortunately, cause people to slip or trip every day. The City has thousands of miles of sidewalks, some of which are maintained by private property owners and some maintained by the City.
Regardless of who is responsible for maintaining a sidewalk, no one gets a free pass when someone gets injured.
For the purpose of this blog, we will focus the discussion on the responsibility of the City of New York vs. an owner of a multiple dwelling or a commercial owner.
Before discussing the details of the law, it’s important to note that these injuries can be substantial, even fatal. Dangerous conditions on sidewalks can lead to slip and fall accidents, either onto the sidewalk or into the street. That can result in the following:
- Broken ligaments
- Injuries to the face and neck
- Spinal cord injury
- Traumatic brain injury
- Worse implications from colliding with a vehicle
Victims of these accidents may be stuck in the hospital for weeks, become unable to work as they normally would have, and be responsible for substantial medical bills. And these can be just the beginning. Some of the most common damages are:
- Hefty medical bills, including hospitalization, surgery, prescriptions, and more
- Lost wages resulting from an inability to work as normal
- Pain and suffering from injuries
- Added childcare bills due to inability to care for loved ones
Clearly, substantial damages can result from dangerous sidewalks. If you or someone you know has been injured while walking on a dangerous sidewalk or otherwise, you would be well advised to speak with an experienced sidewalk injury attorney who understands New York City’s laws and has helped other clients recover.
Determining Liability in a Sidewalk Accident Case
For decades and until today, the City of New York owns all the sidewalks in New York. This includes the curbs, the pedestrian ramps, and all the sidewalks in front of all properties. While the City of New York can issue violations to adjacent landowners for not maintaining their sidewalks, the legal responsibility to injured victims is with the City of New York.
Prior Written Notice Law
The City of New York lobbied the legislators in Albany and created a law known essentially as Prior Written Notice Law. Under Administrative Code 7-210, the City of New York can only be held responsible for a sidewalk defect if the agency of the City responsible for fixing the sidewalk had prior written notice at least 14 days before the subject accident.
Otherwise, without such notice, the City was exempt and had no legal duty to repair a sidewalk defect.
How would the City be given such written notice of a claim? A company was created called the Big Apple Sidewalk & Pothole Corporation whose employees went out and mapped the City sidewalks with markings showing where a sidewalk was defective. This map would be sent to the Department of Transportation, and the City was deemed to be on notice of all the defects on that map.
Local Law Changes
Over time, the City did nothing with these maps and didn’t bother fixing any of the claimed defects. In 2003, Mayor Bloomberg implemented changes via sections 7-210 and 19-152. These updates would change the landscape (no pun intended) of who bears the burden for sidewalk defects.
Of note, this new law only applies to the actual sidewalk adjacent to properties. The curbs and the sidewalk pedestrian ramps have and continue to remain the legal responsibility of the City of New York, and thus an injured party is required to prove that the City had prior written notice.
Under the new law, since February 2003, the City would only remain responsible to injured parties if they received the requisite notice — but only for sidewalks adjacent to one, two, or three family homes that were owner-occupied and used for residential purposes.
All other property owners in the City of New York would now bear the burden of compensating an injured party for the requisite notice. This includes all stores, commercial establishments, malls, large residential buildings, and privately owned parking lots.
This adjustment redistributed the burden of sidewalk maintenance, easing the strain on the City and placing it in the hands of property owners.
Is this the end of the inquiry?
It would seem easy, but it’s not.
1. What if it is a tree root that is uplifting the adjacent sidewalk?
2. What if the sidewalk defect is part of or near a public utility cover or private (telephone or gas) utility cover?
3. How about a sidewalk defect in front of a New York City Housing Authority-owned property?
4. What about a sidewalk defect in front of a property that the City of New York owns as part of its day-to-day operations?
Stay tuned to Part 2 of this discussion.
Leav & Steinberg Is Here to Help
Defective maintenance of buildings and property cases are complex and can involve a variety of personal injuries and damages.
Whether you’ve been injured as the result of improperly maintained sidewalks, inadequate maintenance, or another negligent property management situation, our personal injury attorneys at Leav & Steinberg LLP will bring decades of combined experience to your case to pursue the best possible results.
Contact our law firm today to request your free consultation by calling 347-919-1361 or completing our online form.