Who Is Responsible If I Trip And Fall On A Broken Sidewalk?
While many sidewalks are technically owned by the City of New York, the responsibility to maintain the sidewalks in a reasonably safe condition depends on whether the adjacent property owner is a commercial business or a 1-3 family home which is at least partially owner occupied. If the sidewalk which caused your fall was in front of a commercial property, the responsibility for maintaining the sidewalk rests with the commercial property owner.
In order to prove liability, you need to establish the commercial property owner knew or should have known of the dangerous condition of the sidewalk prior to the accident and failed to fix it within a reasonable period of time. This is called “constructive notice.”
If the sidewalk is in front of a 1-3 family residential home in which the owner at least partially resides (as opposed to an investment property), the responsibility is with the City of New York. Unlike the commercial property owner, however, you must prove the City of New York had prior written notice of the sidewalk defect at least 15 days prior to your accident and failed to remedy the condition.
Any time you have a claim against the City of New York or other municipal entity, it is important to act quickly as you must file what is called a Notice of Claim within 90 days of the date the claim arises.
Lastly, you may also have a claim against the homeowner in the event that they caused or created the dangerous condition of the sidewalk or they made a repair prior to your accident that made the condition worse.
You may also have a cause of action against the homeowner if the accident occurred in the driveway portion of the sidewalk as the homeowner may be sued if he or she made special use of the sidewalk and such special use caused the sidewalk to become dangerous.