As time passes it’s inevitable that our once smooth and pristine sidewalks become uneven and cracked due to ground settling, drainage problems, root encroachment, and any other number of factors. Problems in older communities becomes more pronounced as trees mature, and their root systems lift and crack segments of the sidewalk. Over time drainage systems also get clogged leaving the ground soggy and susceptible to slab sagging. So, when is it time to budget for repairs?
A property owner / manager needs to be mindful in keeping up their property for many reasons. The obvious reason is that nobody wants to hear of someone getting hurt on their property. Secondly, if someone is injured, you could be financially liable for any damages that cause either physical, emotional, or financial harm to a person such as missing work or medical bills. Strange as it may seem you could be sued for violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by either a disabled person, or a lawyer filing blanket complaints in your area even if there are no incidents of injury.
While there is no precise way to determine when someone else is legally responsible for a trip and fall accident, if the plaintiff can prove negligence then this is often sufficient to win a law suit. One sure fired way to prove negligence is by documenting code violations. If you do not properly maintain your sidewalks or at least perform regular inspections, you are leaving yourself vulnerable.
Thousands of people are injured each year when they trip and fall on sidewalks and walkways with injuries ranging from minor bumps and bruises to severe trauma, sometimes resulting in hospitalization or death. So who’s responsible for an injury resulting from a trip and fall accident? Unfortunately, often times it is the property owner who is responsible for the accident by what is known as “premises liability“, and can be held liable for tens of thousands of dollars in damages depending on the severity. Premises liability law deals with injuries caused by a property owner’s failure to maintain their property, or to warn visitors of hazards. In addition, lack of knowledge that there is a potential hazard on your property will not hold up in court because trip hazards take time to develop, and someone should have been aware of them within a reasonable time frame (typically 30 days). So as a property owner/manager, how can you determine your risk and your responsibility to fix potential hazards for your tenants and guests?