Uneven Sidewalk Accidents: Who Is Liable?

Pedestrians can be injured when they slip and fall (or trip and fall) on an uneven sidewalk. Uneven and hazardous sideways can develop for a variety of reasons:

  • Age of the concrete.
  • Wear and tear from pedestrians and vehicles.
  • Repairs or maintenance taking place under or around the sidewalk (by paving companies, landscapers, municipal streets departments, cable companies, and public utilities).
  • Movement or erosion of the ground underneath.
  • Tree roots under the sidewalk.

Who is liable for uneven sidewalk slip and falls?

One or more parties may be liable for the slip and fall:

Public Property

If it’s a public sidewalk along a street, the municipality’s law determines who is responsible for repair and maintenance:

  • The owner of the adjacent property.
  • The municipality itself.

Depending on the accident’s circumstances the owner, the municipality or both of them may be liable for the sidewalk’s condition. Municipalities can be very difficult to sue–there are usually very short deadlines for bringing a claim and strict limits on the dollar amount you can recover.

Private Property

If the sidewalk is on private property — a shopping center, for example—the center’s owner or property management company is responsible for maintaining safe conditions. Depending on the circumstances of the slip and fall, the owner, the manager or both of them can be liable for injuries caused by the sidewalks.

If an unrelated third party like a public utility or landscaper caused the unsafe condition, they can be wholly or partly liable for sidewalk slips and falls.

If more than one person or entity is liable for damages, Pennsylvania law provides that they each contribute to the damages based on their percentage of fault.

Was the pedestrian at fault?

Defendants typically argue that the injured party is wholly or partially reasonable for the slip and fall by alleging that:

  • The plaintiff was not using reasonable care to avoid an obvious hazardous condition.
  • The sidewalk was minimally uneven and would not have caused an ordinary pedestrian to fall.
  • The plaintiff is claiming injuries that could not have been caused by the kind of fall being alleged.
  • The plaintiff’s physical condition pre-dated the fall and was not caused by it.

But even if the injured party is partially at fault, Pennsylvania’s comparative negligence law still permits the plaintiff to sue and recover damages based on the percentage of fault assigned to the defendants who are responsible for the sidewalk’s condition.

Contact Aversa & Linn

If you’ve been injured by a sidewalk slip and fall, an experienced premises liability lawyer at Aversa & Linn can help you sort through the facts and figure out who might be liable, whether the sidewalk’s condition was the result of negligence, and whether the sidewalk was unreasonably unsafe. Call 215-751-1717 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.