Who is Liable for a Slip & Fall on a Public Sidewalk?

Lever & Ecker, PLLC June 18, 2019 Slip Trip & Fall

Sometimes, the property owner is liable. Sometimes, it’s the City of New York. Learn how the law applies in NYC…

New York City may be known for its subway and taxi cabs, but the single most common form of transportation in the Big Apple is undoubtedly walking.

It is no surprise that on our busy, overcrowded, oft-ice-covered sidewalks, slip and fall accidents are relatively common.

Unfortunately, slip & fall accidents can cause serious damage. If you’ve been injured while walking on a New York City sidewalk, you might wonder who is legally liable — the private property owner, the city, or some other party? Or might you be liable yourself?

The law on sidewalk liability has evolved over time in New York, a reflection of just how common the issue is here. As you might expect, the question of legal responsibility turns on the facts and circumstances of the accident itself.

When Is the Property Owner Liable for a Sidewalk Slip & Fall in New York?

New York City has increasingly shifted the responsibility for sidewalk safety onto property owners rather than the city government. That’s especially true when the relevant section of sidewalk is in front of commercial property.

Under New York City Administrative Code Section 7-210, commercial property owners have a duty to maintain in a “reasonably safe condition” any section of sidewalk that abuts their property.

Because so much of the property one walks by in New York is indeed commercial, most slip and fall injury claims in NYC are ultimately brought against the business adjacent to that portion of the sidewalk, not against the city.

To succeed in a claim against the business owner, you will need to show that:

  • The owner was responsible for the section of sidewalk where you were injured,
  • The owner knew or should have known about a dangerous condition on the sidewalk,
  • The owner failed to maintain the sidewalk in a reasonably safe condition, and
  • Such failure caused your damages.

An experienced New York City premises liability lawyer can help you determine whether a substantial defect existed on the sidewalk, whether the owner knew or should have known about it, and the extent to which you may be entitled to financial recovery.

When Is the City of New York Liable for a Sidewalk Slip & Fall?

While property owners are responsible in most cases, liability will fall on the City of New York if:

  • The sidewalk where the accident occurred abuts a one-family, two-family, or three-family residential home, and
  • The owner of the home resides in the home, and
  • The City of New York has previously received “prior written notice” of the dangerous condition (e.g. crack, pothole, uneven tripping hazard, etc.) that caused your injury.

Note that the burden of proving these facts is on the slip & fall victim. However, an experienced New York City premises liability attorney can help.

What If You Were Partially Responsible for Your Own Slip & Fall?

Whether your claim is against a private property owner or the City of New York, either party will likely mount the same defense: that your own negligence was to blame for your accident.

Even if you are indeed partly responsible for your own accident, however, that won’t necessarily prevent you from recovering compensation.

New York is a “pure comparative negligence” state, meaning that people who contribute to their own injuries can still recover financially, but their compensation will be reduced by their percentage of the fault.

Comparative negligence cases can be complicated, especially in cases where the City and/or multiple property owners are involved (as discussed below). The parties will often disagree as to the appropriate percentage of fault. It’s best to talk to an experienced New York City premises liability attorney to make sure you fully understand your rights.

Occasionally, Multiple Parties Share Liability

Every accident is unique, and sometimes, the circumstances can be especially complicated. Your accident might happen in between two buildings, for example — or between a business and a private residence.

Or your injury might be caused by more than one factor, for example: a dangerous sidewalk defect coupled with a negligent pedestrian’s careless behavior.

In these cases and others, there may be more than one liable party. An attorney can help you navigate these complicated scenarios and identify each available avenue toward compensation.

Who Is Responsible for a Slip & Fall on City Sidewalks Caused by Ice or Snow?

You should know that when a slip & fall accident is caused by accumulated ice or snow in New York, the rules get more complicated.

While property owners are generally required to clear accumulated ice and snow from their sidewalks, liability depends on a number of factors, including the time of day, whether snow is still falling, and how long the accumulation has been standing.

Complicating matters further, the rules are slightly different in different parts of the city, such as in Staten Island and Queens.

There’s a lot to be said on the subject of slip & fall accidents caused by snow and ice in NYC. While that discussion goes beyond the scope of this article, we want to urge anyone who has been injured while walking in winter weather in New York to contact our office and learn more about their options.

What to Do After a Slip & Fall on a City Sidewalk in New York

The single most important step you can take is to seek medical attention immediately. If you need emergency treatment, call 911 right away. Otherwise, see a physician for examination as soon as possible.

Having a doctor’s visit on the record soon after the accident can be very important to the outcome of your claim, and it gives the doctor a chance to spot urgent injuries you may not even be aware of. (Some injuries do not cause obvious symptoms early on.)

If you have a cell phone with you and are physically able, try to take as many photographs as possible while still at the scene of the accident. In particular, try to capture:

  • The precise location of your accident in relation to nearby buildings and businesses
  • Whether your accident was entirely in front of one business or between two or more businesses
  • Any dangerous conditions that may have contributed to your accident
  • General street conditions at the time of the accident
  • Detailed images of your injury

If you aren’t able to take the photos yourself, ask someone nearby. It’s also a good idea to get names & contact information for any witnesses if possible.

Finally, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced New York City premises liability attorney as soon as possible.

A Note on Other Sidewalk Accidents in NYC (and Accidents Outside of the City)

This article has focused primarily on slip and fall accidents that occur on New York City sidewalks. Of course, there are other kinds of accidents that happen on sidewalks in the city — scaffolding accidents, pedestrian-involved auto accidents, assault and battery, and so on. Different rules may apply in these cases.

Likewise, different rules may apply to accidents that happen in the State of New York but outside of New York City. This article has focused primarily on the New York City Administrative Code, which does not apply elsewhere in the state.

At Lever & Ecker, PLLC, we work with accident victims all across the State of New York, including White Plains and beyond. If your accident happened somewhere else, or if it happened in New York City but involved something other than a trip, slip, or fall, we encourage you to contact our office to learn which rules and standards might apply in your situation.

Questions About Who Is Responsible for a Slip and Fall on City Sidewalks in New York? Call Lever & Ecker, PLLC.

If you have been injured while walking in New York, we want to help. These claims are complex, so we encourage you to discuss your situation in detail with an experienced New York premises liability attorney as soon as possible. Lever & Ecker, PLLC can help.

Get started with a free, confidential consultation today. We will not charge a fee for our services unless and until we get you money. Call (914) 288-9191 in White Plains, or simply contact us online right away.

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