Despite Southern California’s “car culture” legacy, there is still plenty of walking to be done in L.A., and sidewalk accidents continue to be a leading source of slip and fall or trip and fall injuries in Los Angeles and surrounding communities. In fact, slip and fall accidents are second only to motor vehicle accidents as the basis for negligence and personal injury lawsuits nationwide.
The phrase “slip and fall” does not do justice to the serious injuries which can result from a trip on a dangerous sidewalk. Ankle, wrist, and hip fractures can occur and require lengthy periods of rehabilitation. Victims may also face serious lacerations to the face, causing scarring or disfigurement in some cases. Head, neck and back injuries, including spinal cord paralysis or traumatic brain injury, can also directly result from a serious fall. Any significant fall should be taken seriously and followed up with medical attention to diagnose or rule out a concussion, fracture, muscle tear, or other injury requiring care.
Dangerously unsafe sidewalk conditions may be only temporary in nature, or they may be the result of long-term neglect, including lack of maintenance or repair. Common causes of unsafe sidewalks include:
- Cracked or broken sidewalks
- Wet or slippery sidewalks
- Exposed tree roots
- Uneven slabs
- Widening gaps between slabs
- Broken or missing streetlamps
- Electrical cords or equipment left on sidewalk
- Protruding product displays blocking the sidewalk
- Sinking or cave-in due to subsidence
Los Angeles Ordinance Regarding Sidewalk Repair and Tree Root Growth
According to Los Angeles Municipal Code section 62.104, the City can require property owners to repair or reconstruct any portion of a driveway, sidewalk or curb fronting their property, when that driveway, sidewalk or curb is in such disrepair that it poses a danger to persons passing by. The City can tell you what work must done and what materials must be used, and they may specify the manner in which the work is to be done. Once a property owner has received this notice, you have two weeks to get started on the project.
If damage is done to a curb, driveway or sidewalk, and the City decides this is due to your negligence, the City may sue you to recover damages equal to 40% of the cost of the work required to fix the damage. In some cases the City may assign additional fees as well.
When the damage is the result of tree growth, however, the City ordinance has required the City to take preventive measures or make repairs or reconstruction at no cost to the property owner. Tree root growth is of course a major cause of sidewalk damage. The City, however, has discussed repealing this section as one way to deal with its significant budget deficit, which is projected at $457 million for FY2011-2012 if various budget balancing measures are not implemented.
Know Your Rights and Responsibilities
As a property owner, it is important to know when and if you are responsible for maintaining the sidewalks, curbs, and driveways adjoining your property. As a pedestrian, if you are injured in a slip and fall or trip and fall on a cracked or broken sidewalk, it is imperative to know who is the negligent party that is responsible to compensate you for your injuries. The timelines and procedures for filing a claim against a public governmental entity are much different from the requirements that apply to a negligent private party. Obtaining the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney is the best way to determine your rights and protect them. If you are injured due to a dangerous sidewalk or on other unsafe property in Los Angeles or Southern California, contact the Law Offices of Steven L. Martin for a free consultation.