In order to win compensation after an injury, injury victims will need to prove three things.
- First, that they suffered injuries that cost them financially (such as in medical bills and lost wages).
- Next, that their injuries were someone else’s fault.
- Finally, that the at-fault person owed the injury victim a duty to keep them safe.
When it comes to tripping and falling on sidewalks, usually the first point is easy to prove, but the next two are where it gets hard—and where having a lawyer can come in handy.
If you are unsure whether you have a case after a trip and fall that left you injured, contact our legal team today for a free, no obligation consultation.
Who Is Liable When Someone Trips on a Sidewalk?
Unfortunately, the answer is often “no one.”
The victim of a sidewalk fall needs to first prove that their injuries weren’t their fault to be eligible for compensation. For example, if someone tripped on a sidewalk because their shoelaces were untied or because they were distracted by typing on their phone while walking, it is likely going to be argued that their injuries were their own fault.
Conversely, if the sidewalk was broken or uneven, making it easy to trip over and dangerous to walk on, then they may be able to argue that the condition of the sidewalk caused their injury.
But even if the injury victim can show they weren’t at fault for their own injuries, that does not automatically mean someone else is, legally speaking. In cases like this, the biggest question is: is it a private sidewalk or a public one?
Private Sidewalks and Walkways vs. Public Sidewalks and Walkways
An example of a private sidewalk might be a walkway leading up to the door of a business. In this case, the walkway belongs to the business, and the business likely can be held responsible for failing to protect people who want to enter their store by making the approach to and from all entrances and exits safe to walk on.
If the sidewalk is a public sidewalk, however, it often comes down to whether the sidewalk is owned by a city or the county, since laws exist that protect some forms of government from being sued at all.
Because the law around who, if anyone, is liable after a fall on a sidewalk can get extremely complicated, it is best to speak to a lawyer to determine if you have a claim.
Why Can’t the Government Be Held Liable for Maintaining Sidewalks?
The federal government, and to a lesser extent local governments, may be protected by a type of law called “sovereign immunity.” This essentially means you cannot sue the government in civil court, such as in an injury lawsuit, except when it allows itself to be sued in very limited and specific circumstances.
In Georgia, it is sometimes possible to sue a city, but rarely possible to sue a county. That is what makes it so important to determine what governmental body is responsible for maintaining the sidewalk you fell on. Meanwhile, there can always be complications.
For example, you would assume since Columbus, Georgia, is a city, it should be possible to sue for injuries caused by neglected sidewalk maintenance. Unfortunately, Columbus is legally classified as a county and uses county rules for when it can be held liable. That means it is typically NOT possible to sue for falling on a public sidewalk or walkway in Columbus, Georgia.
Even when you do have the right to sue the city, county, or state for your injuries after a fall on public property like a sidewalk, it is more complicated to do so than it is to sue another person or company.
One of these reasons is because you need to notify the governmental body in question of your intent to sue in a very short time frame. This is called the “ante litem notice” and the length differs depending on whether you are suing a city, county, or state.
For cities, it is usually within six months after an injury. Failing to file the ante litem notice in time means you will automatically have any injury claim you later file thrown out, even if it’s within the regular statute of limitations for filing an injury claim in Georgia (two years).
Get a Free Consult After a Sidewalk Injury with Our Experienced Injury Attorneys
Do not go it alone after an injury from falling on a sidewalk, whether it was a private or public sidewalk. These cases are extremely tricky and hard to win, and you want someone on your side with years of experience litigating exactly this type of case.
When you call us for a case consultation, we will go over the circumstances of your accident with you, for no charge and with no obligation to hire, to help you determine whether you have a claim for compensation against another party or governmental body.
Reach out today to ensure you don’t miss the deadline for pursuing the compensation you deserve.