If you have recently slipped and fallen on a sidewalk, then you may consider suing the business that sits closest to the sidewalk area. While this may be a prudent action to help pay your medical bills, you will first need to understand if you can sue the business in the first place.
Who Really Is Responsible For The Sidewalk?
Before you can start thinking about talking to a lawyer about a lawsuit, you should figure out who is actually responsible for the sidewalk where you fell. In most cases, it depends on who owns the property where you fell. If you fall in front of a park, school, or other public property, then it is typically the responsibility of the city to make repairs to the sidewalk. The town will basically own the walkway. If a business owns the area, then they will need to make repairs. In some area, like New York City, the city itself will make all sidewalk repairs if damage is not fixed in a timely manner, and they will then charge the business afterwards for the repair work. The city will rely on both resident complaints and general inspections to figure out where the repairs need to be made.
While some cities will stay on top of repairs, small towns are not likely to have extensive sidewalk repair programs. If a complaint is made, then the business owner will be notified that they need to make their own repair. It will be the business owner's obligation to schedule and complete the work. In certain towns, a city may not be on top of their own public sidewalk repairs, and this may cause an injury, just like it can in front of a business.
How Can You Prove Negligence?
If you want to sue either the town or the business owner, then you will need to prove that they were negligent by allowing the sidewalk to remain in a state of disrepair. Specifically, you will need to show that the sidewalk was unreasonably unsafe. If there have been reports about the poor condition of the sidewalk, then this may be enough to prove that not only was the sidewalk unsafe, but the town or business owner knew that it was unsafe and did not make repairs right away.
Contact your local Department of Transportation to inquire about complaints. The DOT is typically responsible for the planning, placement, maintenance, and complaints associated with sidewalks. Complaints may have been made directly to the business owner as well. However, the individual likely will not provide this information to you. They will need to supply it during court, and a court order can be filed by your attorney to acquire this information.
Whether there is or is not a record of damage across the sidewalk, you should take pictures as the damaged area as soon as possible. A video may be helpful as well if the sidewalk is unstable or moveable when you step on it. Your own complaint will also be helpful in proving negligence, especially if the sidewalk is not repaired even after you are injured.