Personal Injury Lawyers Representing Sidewalk Slip and Fall Injuries
In general, under Pennsylvania law, both private individuals and business owners have a duty to maintain sidewalks abutting the property in a reasonably safe manner. Negligent conduct, which may lead to liability in a sidewalk slip and fall, includes failing to conduct inspections or failing to correct a known problem in the sidewalk, such as a large gap between concrete blocks, missing concrete, and the like. Commonwealth agencies and local agencies (i.e., cities, municipalities, etc.) can be held liable for sidewalk accidents which occur within their jurisdictions. However, the Pennsylvania Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act provides limited immunity for certain claims, caps available damages, and creates special procedural hurdles. Nevertheless, that liability is still secondary to the property owner.
Under New Jersey law, personal injury claims against municipal entities, including those for sidewalk liability, move much quicker than a typical personal injury claim. Originally under the law in New Jersey, an abutting property owner had no liability for the condition of a public sidewalk, including commercial owners. However, the New Jersey Supreme Court changed its decision regarding commercial owners. Commercial property owners were suddenly liable for abutting pieces of public property, including sidewalks. The Court felt this decision was based on fairness. The New Jersey Supreme Court reasoned that commercial property owners retain considerable interests in and rights to use adjacent sidewalks over and above those of the general public and it also decided that commercial owners are in an ideal position to inspect the sidewalks and to take prompt action to cure defects.
In 2004, the Supreme Court of Delaware struck down a Wilmington ordinance which assigned responsibility for sidewalk snow removal to property occupants, owners, or agents. The justices found the ordinances conflicted with Wilmington’s charter, which assigns the job of maintaining streets, including “footways,” to the city. The Court also struck down the responsibility of private homeowners to repair the sidewalk in front of their house for a similar reason that same year, as it was inconsistent with a city statute that only allowed repairs by contract to what is technically public property. Thus, individuals in Pennsylvania can be held liable for personal injuries incurred on a sidewalk, while individuals in New Jersey and Delaware are much less likely to be held liable.