Review of Sidewalk Accident Injury Claims and Liability in California
Sidewalk accident injury claims in California are fairly common, especially in the larger cites around Los Angeles and Orange County. These type of injuries have the potential to cause great bodily harm and are frequently due to negligence in maintenance.
Many people have had the experience of tripping while walking down a defective sidewalk, and some have stumbled and fallen down.
Clearly, many sidewalk injuries to a victim are relatively minor, but there are some sidewalk falls can cause serious bodily injuries.
When this happens, you could be entitled to pursue financial compensation for your injuries.
A sidewalk accident could cause several damages, especially in a situation where you are walking with your hands full of groceries or other items. Put simply, a trip and fall on a defective portion of a sidewalk could result in a serious injury.
In many sidewalk accidents, it's not always easy to correctly identify who exactly is responsible for the damaged sidewalk.
Have you been injured while walking on the sidewalk? If so, you might be confused about who is at fault for your injury and whether you're entitled to compensation for harm sustained.
It's crucial you contact a our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers right away. Let's review below how the California law applies.
Sidewalk Accidents in California
The common way people are injured on sidewalks is when they are poorly maintained and has some type of a dangerous condition causing a risk of harm to anyone using the sidewalk in a reasonably manner.
When a pedestrian is walking down a sidewalk, it's mostly assumed it is level and has no hazards. When it's not, you can trip and fall and get seriously injured.
These sidewalk accidents are normally caused by unsafe conditions, such as:
- sections of the sidewalk are uneven,
- cracks have caused raised portions in the concrete,
- tree roots that push up sections of the sidewalk concrete.
In order to prove a case for liability in sidewalk accidents, your injury lawyer must have a clear understanding of California law. This would fall under the umbrella of a premises liability claim.
It's important to immediately take pictures of the sidewalk defects because they could be quickly repaired before you are able to file your injury claim.
Depending on different factors, a city government entity, business owner, apartment complex, or even a homeowner, could be held liable for your injuries in a sidewalk accident.
The standard statute of limitations in California to file an injury claim is two years from the date of the sidewalk accident, but only six months if a government entity is involved.
Failure to file a claim within these time periods means you will be unable to recover and damages for your injuries.
A sidewalk accident can normally happen in the following ways:
- trip and fall accident,
- slip and fall accident,
- uneven sidewalk,
- defective sidewalk,
- cracked sidewalk,
- sidewalk's poor condition;
- a motor vehicle drives onto the sidewalk and collides with you.
The city where you live might have planted a lot of trees where the roots caused raised damage to sections of the sidewalk, or they could have improperly poured the concrete.
Perhaps they didn't correctly compact the soil before laying down the sidewalk sections, which causes the loose soil to shift and separate the concrete on top of it.
So, if you stumble because there's a raised or cracked section in the sidewalk, or you're knocked over by an encroaching vehicle, you may have grounds for a sidewalk accident claim.
Types of Sidewalk Accident Injuries
Sidewalk accident injuries can vary widely, but they normally include the following:
- cuts and lacerations,
- soft tissue sprains,
- broken bones and fractures,
- back injuries,
- neck and spinal injuries,
- head trauma,
- hip and knee damage,
- herniated and slipped disc,
- brain injury,
The more severe your injuries, the higher chance you will receive a large settlement offer.
Normally, if your injuries make you take some time off from work, take a significant time to heal, require a lot of treatment, or the injuries make you alter your lifestyle, then you could be entitled to a substantial sum.
Clearly, a sidewalk accident causing less serious injuries will be worth less compensation on average.
Liability for Sidewalk Injuries in California
To claim compensation for a sidewalk accident, you must prove that:
- you had an accident on the sidewalk;
- someone's else's negligence, or mistake, caused the accident;
- you sustained an injury due to this accident.
In short, you must prove that someone else is to blame for your injury. So, if, for example, you tripped on the sidewalk due entirely to your own carelessness, there's no compensation claim.
It's helpful if you gather as much evidence as possible to support your case. Evidence might include:
- photographs of the sidewalk defect,
- the shoes you wore,
- visit to the doctor's office,
- a witness statement (if possible),
- police report (if a motor vehicle was involved).
In order to file a lawsuit for a California sidewalk accident, it will depend on who you claim is responsible for your accident and the injuries sustained. Generally, you will either file a premises liability lawsuit or a car accident lawsuit.
Premises Liability Lawsuit for Negligence
Personal injury lawsuits based on premises liability can be filed by proving negligence of the responsible party.
Typically, you are owed a duty of care to be kept safe where others can manage it. Put simply, property owners are required to take care of sidewalks and prevent dangers and hazards.
To make a premises liability claim, you must show that the sidewalk was unsafe, the defendant knew or should have known about the defect, they failed to fix the problem, and you were harmed as a result of their negligence.
There are four crucial factors of negligence you will need to prove to win the case:
- you were owed a duty of care;
- the duty of care was breached;
- the breach did result in accident;
- the accident did result in actual physical harm.
All of these factors above must be true or you won't be able to file a personal injury claim. Further, there must be evidence of physical injuries, and if you were not injured, then you can't sue for specific damages.
The defendant could be a government body or employee, or a private property owner. Your attorney can advise you who may be liable.
Possible defenses to a premises liability lawsuit include:
- trivial defect rule – if the defect is smaller than one inch, the court might find that the defendant had no obligation to fix it;
- your shoes – the defendant could argue that your footwear wasn't suitable for the sidewalk;
- lack of knowledge – if the defendant can show they had no reasonable knowledge of the defect.
Car Accident Lawsuit for Sidewalk Accident
If you were involved in a vehicle-pedestrian collision in California, then you could be eligible to file a personal injury claim.
California Vehicle Code 21663 VC states that drivers can't operate or move vehicles onto sidewalks unless it is necessary. Further, if driving on a walkway is necessary, then Vehicle Code 21952 VC requires drivers to yield to any pedestrians.
For a successful car accident lawsuit, you must show that:
- the defendant failed to show proper care and attention while operating the vehicle, e.g., they mounted the sidewalk,
- you were harmed as a result,
- the defendant's negligence is to blame for the harm you sustained.
Defenses may include:
- the defendant wasn't responsible for the accident,
- the plaintiff behaved negligently,
- the injuries are exaggerated.
Compensation for Sidewalk Accidents in California
In California, you can usually claim two types of damages for personal injury claims: economic and non-economic damages.
Economic damages compensate you for financial losses you incurred due to the injury. They include:
- medical expenses,
- physical therapy,
- prescription medication,
- property damage,
- lost property,
- lost income,
- lost earning capacity.
Non-economic damages are claims for pain and suffering, emotional distress, psychological trauma, anxiety, PTSD, and fear you experienced due to the incident.
Quantifying a compensation claim is no easy task, but a personal injury attorney can estimate what your claim may be worth based on the accident, the nature of your injuries, and the level of damages awarded in similar cases.
An insurance agent will normally determine the amount to offer you after evaluating your injuries, and they are infamous for low-ball offers.
Statute of Limitations for a Lawsuit
As noted above, you only have a certain amount of time to claim compensation for a sidewalk accident in California.
If you're filing a claim against an individual, you only have two years from the date of the accident to start your claim. This applies if, for example, you're suing the driver of a motor vehicle or a property owner.
However, if you're suing a government agency, you only have six months from the accident date to start a claim.
For example, if you're filing a premises liability lawsuit, the defendant may well be a government entity or employee, which means you don't have much time to file.
How Can an Injury Lawyer Help You?
Our personal injury attorneys have experience handing premises liability lawsuits, including sidewalk accidents.
We can ensure you are properly compensated by the responsible property owner. We can walk you through the legal process and answer all the questions you might have about your claim.
We will also review how how much compensation we believe your lawsuit is worth. We work on a contingency basis, meaning we don't get paid unless you win your case.
Put simply, you don't have any out of pocket expenses for our services. If we win your case, our fees will be taken from the settlement we bring you.
At Injury Justice Law Firm, our personal injury lawyers are highly experienced handling all types of accident cases.
We can start building your injury case without delay to make sure evidence we need is still available.
Our law firm has two office locations in Los Angeles County. Call our office at (818) 781-1570, or you can fill out our contact form.