Sidewalk Hazards and Personal Injury: Know Your Rights as a Pedestrian

December 14, 2023

 

 

Stepping out onto the sidewalk should give pedestrians a sense of safety and security. However, sidewalk hazards such as broken pavement, debris, and other dangers can lead to painful and even fatal accidents.

If you have suffered an injury as a pedestrian, it’s crucial to understand both the immediate steps to take post-accident as well as your legal rights regarding compensation. This guide will equip you with the key information you need to protect yourself after a sidewalk accident.

Understanding Sidewalk Accidents and Liability

With 8,000 pedestrians injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2021 in the U.S. alone, sidewalk safety is a rising public concern. Accidents on sidewalks occur due to factors like:

  • Uneven pavement or cracks
  • Lack of proper maintenance like snow/ice removal
  • Obstructions like bicycles, signboards, or construction equipment
  • Poor lighting at night

In most states, property owners are responsible for ensuring that adjacent sidewalks are maintained and free from defects. If their negligence in upkeep results in hazardous conditions leading to a pedestrian injury, they can be deemed liable. Determining liability depends on understanding who controls the sidewalk involved in your accident.

If you're seeking an injury lawyer in Myrtle Beach, it's important to find a legal professional who specializes in personal injury cases and has a track record of success. Consulting with a Myrtle Beach injury lawyer specializing in personal injury cases ensures that you are well informed about the available legal avenues to pursue compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages resulting from the incident.

Immediate Steps to Take After a Sidewalk Accident

Given that there were over 104,000 emergency room visits in 2020 alone for pedestrian crash injuries, taking prompt action after any sidewalk mishap is vital. Here are the crucial steps to take:

  • Document Everything: Call 911 and notify the property owner about the accident, taking down names and contact details. Take photos capturing the unsafe conditions like pavement cracks, poor lighting, obstructing signs, etc. that caused your fall.
  • Get Checked Out: Even if your injuries seem minor, get a medical evaluation right away. Adrenaline after an accident can mask serious issues like fractures, head trauma, or internal bleeding. Delayed treatment can impact your recovery.
  • Report to Authorities: File an official incident report with the police detailing the accident, hazardous conditions, and injuries. Having an official record from the start will strengthen any legal claims later.
  • Contact Witnesses: Record statements from anyone who saw your fall. Eyewitness testimonies can confirm dangerous conditions later during legal proceedings.

Taking these immediate steps lays the groundwork for establishing negligence and pursuing fair injury compensation down the road.

Legal Recourse and Compensation Claims

The complex legal landscape after a sidewalk accident can be daunting to navigate. But understanding the legal framework is key to getting compensated for your injuries and damages. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Statute of Limitations: Each state sets legal deadlines, known as statutes of limitation, to file personal injury claims. For sidewalk accidents, this can range from 1-6 years depending on your state. Crossing the deadline can make you ineligible for compensation.
  • Government Sidewalks: Special legal provisions called notice of claim statutes apply for accidents on government or city-owned sidewalks. These dictate providing notice to the government body within 60-180 days in certain states before filing a lawsuit.
  • Proving Liability and Damages: With legal guidance, key evidence like medical reports, accident photos, eyewitness statements, and official documentation can help establish negligence and liability. Quantifying injury-related expenses and calculating lost income is vital for securing full damages.
  • Settlements: Many sidewalk accident cases get settled out of court through negotiations between legal teams. Although swifter, settlements may not offer complete compensation. Getting experienced legal advice is essential to maximizing your claim value during settlement talks.

Role of Personal Injury Attorneys in Sidewalk Accidents

Given the complexity of personal injury law combined with short legal deadlines, having an experienced attorney in your corner is invaluable after a sidewalk accident. Here are some of the key benefits of securing legal representation:

  • With 49% of pedestrian fatalities involving alcohol impairment, an attorney can highlight or counter any substance use-related arguments.
  • Attorneys have the expertise to secure accident documentation, establish negligence claims demonstrating duty of care violations by property owners, determine all liable parties, and negotiate optimal settlements.
  • They also work with medical professionals to assess injury treatment needs, calculate lost income from missed work, and build a robust damages demand.
  • Personal injury lawyers know how to file claims or lawsuits before legal deadlines expire.
  • Given their experience handling sidewalk accident cases, they can provide reasonable estimates of claim values and compensation amounts to expect.

Hiring an attorney after your accident can make all the difference in being able to recover damages.

Preventative Measures and Public Safety

Along with pedestrian awareness of safety and legal rights, preventative action is also vital to reducing sidewalk hazards.

  • With adults over the age of 65 comprising 21% of all US pedestrian fatalities in 2021, targeted measures like slower speed limits and better lighting in senior neighborhoods can enhance safety.
  • Government agencies should regularly inspect sidewalks and infrastructure around schools, hospitals, transportation hubs, and other high-traffic areas. Timely maintenance helps avoid sidewalk defects leading to accidents.
  • Clearing fixtures like construction tools or commercial signage that obstruct sidewalks can prevent pedestrian-related incidents.
  • Community education programs demonstrating safe walking practices near vehicles or during inclement weather are also beneficial.

With collaborative, long-term efforts on these preventative best practices, sidewalk injuries can be reduced, creating a safer outdoor environment for all pedestrians.

FAQs

What are the most common causes of sidewalk accidents, and who is at fault?

Sidewalk accidents generally occur due to factors like uneven pavement, debris, obstructing fixtures, or poor maintenance. Commercial and residential property owners responsible for adjoining sidewalk upkeep may be deemed negligent and held liable if their failure to ensure safe conditions contributed to a pedestrian injury.

What should I do immediately after being injured in a sidewalk accident?

It’s vital to call 911, document the scene through photos, file a police report, notify witnesses, seek prompt medical attention for any injuries, and contact the property owner. This documentation will support potential injury claims down the road.

How does the legal process work for claiming compensation in sidewalk accident cases?

The statute of limitations sets legal deadlines to file injury lawsuits, ranging from 1-6 years depending on each state. Special extra notice provisions apply to government sidewalks. With legal guidance, key evidence can be collected to prove liability and secure damages for injuries, lost work, and treatment expenses. Settlements are common outcomes.

Conclusion

Suffering any injury can be traumatic. But understanding the legal landscape around sidewalk hazards equips you to take the right actions to safeguard your rights and well-being if an accident occurs. With prompt response, documented evidence, legal support, and community diligence, pedestrian risks can be minimized while also ensuring fair restitution. Staying well-informed is key to protecting yourself and advocating for public safety.

 

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