Who Is Liable for a Sidewalk Slip and Fall?
When it comes to slip and fall accidents in Missouri, there is one general rule: if a person slips and gets hurt because of someone else’s negligence, they are entitled to financial compensation. However, slip and fall claims are complex, especially if the accident happens on a sidewalk. In fact, determining liability for these types of cases is hard and requires thorough investigation. This article will provide a general overview of sidewalk slip and fall accidents and how to determine liability. First and foremost, let’s get a better understanding of how negligence works.
Negligence in Sidewalk Slip and Fall
To win a slip and fall case, the victim will need to prove the property owner’s negligence. Yet, simply slipping and falling on someone’s property does not mean the owner was negligent. Actually, not even the condition of the sidewalk is enough to prove negligence, especially if the government owns it.
So, how can a victim find the responsible party? Firstly, the sidewalk needs to be in an incredibly unsafe condition. Then, to prove that the owner was negligent, the victim needs to demonstrate that they knew about the condition of the sidewalk and didn’t take the necessary precautions to avoid accidents.
Who Is Liable?
Before attempting to sue a property owner or the government, it’s important to understand who owns the sidewalk. Generally speaking, sidewalks are public property in the state of Missouri.
However, state law also states that occupiers and owners of properties that have sidewalks are responsible for keeping them orderly and clean. That includes maintenance activities ranging from cleaning to removing ice and snow. But since the law is unclear, the liability for injuries on sidewalks can land on property owners, the municipality, or both.
Proving Liability in a Sidewalk Slip and Fall
As with any slip and fall case, it usually falls on the victim or their legal representative to find out who was responsible for the accident. In other words, they will have to document the accident scene by taking pictures of the sidewalk and interviewing eyewitnesses. Witnesses may provide a deposition—find out if you need to get your deposition taken in a slip and fall case.
Additionally, the victim should get a history of complaints that the municipality received about the defective condition of the sidewalk. However, a faulty sidewalk is not enough to demonstrate that the government or a private entity is responsible. The victim also needs to prove that the owner knew about the condition and didn’t do anything about it. If the victim is able to gather such evidence, they can file a claim against the municipality or property owner and request compensation for their injuries.
If the municipality is responsible for the slip and fall accident, the case becomes much more complex. Simply put, the sovereign immunity law states that public entities are exempt from liability. Yet, there are a few exceptions that allow people to pursue lawsuits against negligent government entities:
● Injuries resulted from conditions granted that the plaintiff can prove the unsafety of the property at the time of the injury. The claimant must demonstrate that the unsafe conditions were the direct cause of the injury and that they created a foreseeable risk. They also need to show that negligence, wrongful acts, or omissions of employees are not responsible for these conditions. And lastly, it must be confirmed that the governmental entity was notified of the poor conditions before the injury happened.
● Injuries brought about by negligent acts conducted by public employees or caused by motor vehicle operations. For instance, a pedestrian slips and falls on the sidewalk as they try to avoid an incoming firetruck. If the vehicle had no active sirens or emergency lights, sovereign immunity doesn’t apply.
Deadlines and Other Limitations for Claims Against a Municipality
It’s also important to mention that there is a time limit during which a victim can file a claim and initiate legal actions against the municipality. While these deadlines differ from state to state, they usually include the following:
● Victims have a very short deadline to notify the proper city department about the location and circumstances of the accident.
● Plaintiffs have a shortened deadline for filing an actual lawsuit against the municipality.
Unfortunately, the claim might get barred if the victim sends a notice to the wrong department. For instance, if a person tripped on a city street sidewalk that goes over a state highway, they would have to hold the state highway department responsible rather than the local municipality.
Furthermore, there are limits on the damages victims can get when making an injury claim against a municipality. Actually, they can be very low, often sitting below $100,000.
It goes without saying that sidewalk slip and fall accidents are complex. While the property owner can be at fault, so can the municipality. If the latter is true, the victim will have to go through a convoluted legal procedure to get their compensation.
However, claimants don’t have to do all the work themselves. By hiring slip and fall attorneys in St Louis MO, victims can spend their time recovering while their legal representatives handle the cases, from gathering evidence to negotiating a fair settlement. In fact, requesting the help of a professional is the best way to guarantee that the entity responsible will answer for its negligence and face legal consequences of its inaction.
On the other hand, if you have slipped and fallen on the stairs, you will have to focus on proving fault in a stair accident.