You Need a Fort Lauderdale Sidewalk Injury Lawyer to Establish Liability After Your Fall
Sidewalks were invented over 4,000 years ago to keep pedestrians safe. However, in the millennia since then, the technology of sidewalks hasn’t improved much, and these walkways are often far from safe. In particular, the sidewalks of Fort Lauderdale have become notorious for the trip and fall hazards they present to those brave enough to walk on them. Who is liable when a pedestrian is injured in a fall on a damaged or obstructed sidewalk? What should pedestrians do after a slip and fall incident on a sidewalk? Is there any way to make the sidewalks safer? A Fort Lauderdale sidewalk injury attorney reviews the dangerous sidewalk situation in the City.
Background on Fort Lauderdale’s Sidewalk Hazards
At one point, the Department of Public Works reported over 100 miles of damaged sidewalks in the City of Fort Lauderdale in nearly 30,000 locations. That represents one-quarter of all sidewalks in the system. However, the same report noted that the City had repaired only five miles of sidewalks in the previous five years and paid $1.3 million to cover lawsuits associated with trip and fall claims on the sidewalks.
These figures do not include harm suffered to pedestrians on sidewalks hit by motor vehicles, and it does not include damaged sidewalks managed by Broward County or the State of Florida. A Fort Lauderdale sidewalk injury attorney knows this adds up to a serious safety risk for pedestrians.
Who is Liable for Maintaining Safe Sidewalks?
Responsibility for sidewalk maintenance is not always a straightforward topic in Fort Lauderdale. For example, a 1953 ordinance declares all sidewalks running along public streets to be “public sidewalks for the use of the public,” regardless of whether those sidewalks are located on land owned by the government or owned by a private entity or individual person. However, a few decades later, the City passed another ordinance making private property owners responsible for sidewalk repairs on their property in many circumstances.
The bottom line is that many private property owners believe the sidewalk is a little strip of public property that cuts through their land. In reality, however, while the government maintains the ability to control what happens on that strip of land, the ownership and responsibility for maintenance remain with the property owner. That means that a private property owner could be held liable if someone suffers injuries due to improper sidewalk maintenance or obstructions on the sidewalk.
If a sidewalk runs adjacent to public property, then the City of Fort Lauderdale or another government entity could be held liable for injuries caused by poor sidewalk conditions. To further complicate the issues, there may also be times when a homeowner’s association bears responsibility for sidewalk maintenance. An experienced sidewalk injury attorney in Fort Lauderdale could investigate to determine the party or parties who could be held liable for a particular fall.
What Should You Do After a Sidewalk Accident?
In any accident situation, your safety is the first priority. After a trip and fall on a sidewalk, you want to make sure you are away from hazards and make sure you receive a thorough medical evaluation and treatment. Follow your doctor’s instructions carefully, not only for your physical and mental health but also to make it easier to recover compensation later.
You will need evidence of the hazardous condition on the sidewalk to obtain damages to cover the cost of medical needs, lost wages, pain and other effects. Therefore, it is a good idea to take pictures of the accident site as soon as possible, as well as photos of the injuries sustained.
It is also helpful to consult an experienced Fort Lauderdale sidewalk injury attorney soon after the incident. Your attorney will investigate to determine whether the property owner received notice of the need to make repairs and failed to take appropriate action.
If a government entity is responsible for the poor condition of the sidewalk, then the accident victim will need to file an appropriate “notice of claim” with the state before any legal action can be taken. Failure to abide by legal requirements can restrict or remove an accident victim’s ability to recover damages after a trip and fall.
How Can We Make the Sidewalks Safer for Pedestrians in Fort Lauderdale?
It is helpful to understand the types of damage suffered by sidewalks in Fort Lauderdale and the factors that cause the damage. While it is necessary to make repairs, taking steps to prevent future damage will also improve sidewalk safety.
In addition to damage, a Fort Lauderdale sidewalk fall lawyer knows that it is important to address other features on or near a sidewalk that can also cause slip and fall incidents.
Many sidewalk falls are caused by factors such as:
- Vertical displacement/buckled sidewalks resulting from tree growth
- Wide cracks caused by environmental conditions or equipment damage
- Concrete spalling and other surface defects that leave a loose or crumbling surface
- Deteriorated grates or manholes
- Caps for utility pipes that project above the sidewalk surface
- Loose bricks or cobblestones
- Deterioration caused by the use of substandard materials
- Debris or other obstructions
There are already laws on the books to require that sidewalks be appropriately constructed, kept free from obstructions, and maintained properly. However, enforcement of these provisions appears to be lacking in many instances. The best advice for pedestrians who are visiting is to keep their eyes on the sidewalk and avoid walking when visibility is poor. But for those who rely on foot transportation to serve their daily needs, more needs to be done.
Some have proposed that instead of assigning maintenance responsibilities to private property owners, the City of Fort Lauderdale should follow the lead of other jurisdictions that either maintain all sidewalks themselves or provide labor for repairs while assessing property owners for the cost of materials.
A Fort Lauderdale Sidewalk Fall Attorney Will Pursue Your Compensation
Trip and fall accidents on Fort Lauderdale sidewalks are a serious problem that has been ignored for too long. Lawsuits seeking compensation from property owners who fail to maintain sidewalks can help draw attention to the problem and spur further improvements.
If you or a loved one suffered injuries caused by hazardous conditions on a sidewalk, you owe it to yourself to contact a dedicated Fort Lauderdale sidewalk injury attorney at the Maus Law Firm to learn about the options available for recovery. Contact us now for a free consultation and case evaluation.