Although most lawyers won't tell you this up front, here's the cold, hard truth: most claimants who are injured due to a defective sidewalk will not recover the full value of their personal injury claim. And here's why: once you've identified who the responsible parties are (not always a simple task), you still face significant hurdles to successfully prove your case, including the following:

  • That they knew or should have known about the defective condition, yet failed to timely correct the problem;
  • That the sidewalk defect was significant rather than minimal; and,
  • Assuming that the defect was significant, that the defect wasn't so open and obvious so as to leave you with the lion's share of responsibility for the accident
Moreover, you should be aware that New York City passed a law in 2003 - Administrative Code Section 7-210 - which divested the City of New York from any liability resulting from their failure (i.e., negligence) to maintain sidewalks fronting most properties, instead imposing this responsibility upon the owner of the adjacent property. But this relatively new law did not, and does not, resolve who retains liability for the sidewalk curbs, or the tree wells that are found throughout New York. Further complicating matters, if a municipality may be involved, they typically must be served with a formal Notice of Claim (a legal document providing the name and adddress of the claimant, as well as a specific description of the nature and location at which the claim arose) within 90 days of the accident. Even worse, if a municipality is involved, they generally cannot be held liable for a defective sidewalk or roadway condition unless they had prior written notice of the defective condition.

In short, it is clear that defective sidewalk cases are far more complicated than they seem.

Jonathan Cooper
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Non-Compete, Trade Secret and School Negligence Lawyer