Sidewalks are both a source of safety and convenience and a potential risk to the public. They increase public safety by keeping pedestrians out of the road and limiting the risk of pedestrian-vehicle collisions. However, sidewalks also create risks for those who use them, as age and improper repair or maintenance can lead to dangerous, broken or uneven sidewalk surfaces.
Poorly maintained sidewalks create risks for someone walking, jogging or pushing a stroller down the sidewalk, but they can be results in catastrophic accidents for people in wheelchairs. A bad section of sidewalk could make an area impassable to those in wheelchairs, increase the risk of rolling out into traffic or otherwise put someone with mobility limitations at increased risk for unnecessary injury.
Who has the responsibility to maintain sidewalks?
There is a lot of confusion across the state of California regarding sidewalk maintenance and repair. In many municipalities and urban areas, the local government owns the sidewalks. However, the obligation for major repairs or replacement to the damaged sections of sidewalk falls on the individual who owns the property abutting the sidewalk under California state law.
Although a property owner may have had no role in the design or installation of a section of sidewalk, if that section becomes uneven, crumbled or otherwise presents a risk to the community, it is the responsibility of the property owner to repair or replace the damaged section of sidewalk.
Those who don’t take adequate steps to ensure that sidewalks provide safe passage for pedestrians and those in wheelchairs could wind up saddled with the financial liability that results if that broken sidewalk causes an injury to someone else.