California residents typically enjoy the mild temperatures by getting outside. Completing errands on foot provides the opportunity to save gas and reduce the carbon footprint. Uneven, cracked or damaged paved walkways can be hazardous to those using them. If a pedestrian sustains an injury by tripping or falling while on the sidewalk, who is liable?
Risk Management Monitor reports that while California municipalities own the public area adjacent to private property, it is the landowner’s responsibility to maintain the area fronting the property. The city can assess landowners for the repair costs if the sidewalks are in poor condition. Depending on the municipality, property owners may not be liable for injuries or damages to pedestrians. The sidewalk liability ordinance, if adopted, imposes the responsibility for upkeep on the landowner, while not wholly absolving the city of its obligation to resident safety.
According to Plaintiff Magazine, elevation differences of an inch or more constitute a dangerous matter of law. Tree roots, heat or water intrusion and debris are common causes of elevation changes. Studies indicate that the combination of depression with more than a two percent slope and debris can cause a fall.
Property owners must maintain the sidewalk and warn or protect those using it from hazardous conditions. However, local ordinances may differ from country or state laws, making liability for injuries a complex matter. Individuals that trip and fall may require the skills of an accident reconstructionist. This specialist can evaluate the situation and determine the cause of the problem. Photographs, eyewitness accounts and measurements obtained at the site often provide the proof necessary for a claim.