Slip and fall accidents can happen any time of the year and under any conditions. The first thing to remember about a slip and fall accident is that you may actually be the negligent party. If a walking hazard is clearly marked with signs
and warning cones and you trip over it and fall, then you are probably liable for your own injuries. If there was no warning, then you may have a personal injury case against the property owner.
But how do things change when you slip and fall on a public sidewalk? Once again, there are a lot of variables that come into play when it comes to a slip and fall personal injury lawsuit that involves public sidewalks. Is there a municipal responsibility to maintain those sidewalks, or are there other negligent parties?
Sidewalk Slip And Fall Accident State Laws
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder recently signed a law that offered more protection to Michigan cities and towns against slip and fall lawsuits due to bad sidewalks. The law states that injured parties cannot sue over bad sidewalks when the danger is obvious and out in the open for all to see. For example, if a sidewalk is pushed up by a tree root several inches above the street level, then that is something everyone can see and safely avoid. If someone trips over that sidewalk, then the city would not be liable.
This new law in Michigan raises a couple of interesting questions that have yet to be answered. Does this new law absolve cities and towns of the need to properly maintain their sidewalks? Since the new law protects municipalities from liability due to obviously damaged sidewalks, it would indicate that repairing the sidewalks is not a priority.
The other issue that comes into play is the idea of an obvious issue with the sidewalks. What may be obvious to some may not be obvious to others. How would a court decide if something is obvious or not? In judgment calls such as this, it is expected that the benefit of the doubt would go to the municipality.
The Laws In Philadelphia
In the state of Pennsylvania, there is a statute of limitations of two years for filing personal injury lawsuits. However, every city and state has laws in place to try and protect themselves from personal injury lawsuits, and Philadelphia is no exception. In most cities in Pennsylvania, you only have a few weeks to alert the city that you intend to file a lawsuit, and then you have a short time to actually file the suit. You should consult an experienced attorney quickly to determine what your statute of limitations are for municipal actions in Philadelphia.
The instances when the city of Philadelphia would actually be liable for issues regarding slip and fall incidents on public sidewalks are more limited than you may think. If you slip and fall in front of a home or business, then you will probably have to take up your claim with that home or business owner.
Is there a difference between tripping over a damaged sidewalk or slipping on ice? In some cases, there may be. A damaged sidewalk in front of a home or business that has been brought to the attention of the city could become a liability issue for the city itself. If the home or business owner damaged the sidewalk and did not alert the city, then the city may not be liable.
In most cases, instances of slipping and falling on ice are the responsibility of the person who owns the property closest to the sidewalk. If you slip and fall on ice in front of a home, then the homeowner would be responsible. The city would be responsible if you slipped on ice in front of a public building.
The Tangled Web Of Personal Injury Lawsuits
When it comes to suing the city of Philadelphia for your slip and fall injuries on a public sidewalk, the odds are not in your favor. You first have to make sure you file all of the appropriate paperwork in time to allow yourself to file any kind of claim or lawsuit. Then you have to be sure that the city is actually responsible for maintaining that sidewalk. In addition, you have to be sure that the problem you slipped or tripped over is not so obvious that you should have avoided it. Then you have to ensure that the city was informed about the issue and did not act accordingly.
When it is all said and done, cities have several layers of protection for sidewalk slip and fall accidents. If the Michigan law catches on in Pennsylvania, then cities such as Philadelphia would have even more ways to offset the possibility that they could be sued for a slip and fall accident.