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Trip-and-fall liability not always easy to prove

No matter how smooth and even a sidewalk may be when the contractor installs it, as years pass, it is likely to deteriorate. Severe weather, excess use, shifting ground and tree roots can all cause sidewalks to sink, crack or crumble. While this can diminish a homeowner’s curb appeal, it presents more serious issues for those who suffer injuries in trip-and-fall accidents.

A trip-and-fall on a concrete or brick sidewalk can result in painful and even disabling injuries, including broken bones, spinal cord injuries or brain trauma. In most municipalities in California and elsewhere, public sidewalks adjacent to residential or commercial property are the responsibility of the property owners. A property owner or manager who fails to notice and appropriately address a dangerous sidewalk may be legally responsible for any injuries that result.

Proving liability is not always easy, however. The court may ask certain questions to determine who is responsible, such as:

  • How long was the sidewalk broken?
  • Was the property owner aware of the uneven sidewalk?
  • Did the owner take any steps to protect walkers from the hazard?
  • Did the victim share in any of the negligence for the fall, such as looking at a cellphone while walking or wearing inappropriate shoes?

Those in California who suffer debilitating or life-changing injuries following a trip-and-fall may have a difficult road ahead to prove the property owner’s liability. Nevertheless, holding negligent property owners responsible is an important part of seeking redress through a personal injury claim. Additionally, a successful claim may allow the victim a better chance at a more complete recovery.