Can I Sue For Falling On A Sidewalk?
Fall on Private Sidewalk Versus Fall on a City Sidewalk
Any time you are injured because of the fault of another person, you can sue. Yes, you can sue for falling on a sidewalk.
If you fall down and are injured, lawyers call those “premises liability” cases. I usually call them “fall down” cases.
Many people I speak to who is injured in a fall believe that the law says that if you fall on someone else’s property, they have to pay your medical bills. I don’t know where this comes from but it is not the law in Illinois.
In Illinois if you want to sue for injuries related to a fall down, you have to prove:
(1) what caused you to fall;
(2) prove that what caused you to fall was unreasonably dangerous
(3) and prove that the thing which caused you to fall was created by the property owner or;
(4) that the property owner knew or should have known about it.
If you trip on a sidewalk, a big challenge in a case like that is proving that the crack in the sidewalk is “unreasonably dangerous”. Most people don’t think of a crack or a height difference between two slabs in a sidewalk as unreasonably dangerous. Due to the crummy conditions of a city of Chicago sidewalks, people see that as a normal condition of the sidewalk. And they think that you should just have been more careful. Of course, when THEY fall on the sidewalk their opinion changes!
Another challenge in a sidewalk fall down case against the city of Chicago is proving that the city of Chicago knew or should have known about the problem.
The City of Chicago often defends sidewalk fall down cases by claiming that they did not know about the particular broken sidewalk, even when it is in terrible condition. They make the argument that they have hundreds of miles of sidewalks to monitor and repair. And unless someone specifically complains about a sidewalk, there’s not much that can be done.
If you have fallen in a sidewalk, one of the best things that you can do is talk to people who live in the area to see if you can get witnesses who will testify about how long the problem existed. If you can call ordinary normal people who can honestly say that a problem existed for five years, then it will be up to the jury to decide whether they want to live in the city where the city leaves broken sidewalks broken for five years.
You can fall on a private sidewalk or one owned by the City of Chicago. (Well, technically 'held in trust' by the City of Chicago). Chicago has no sidewalk inspection system, and I have honest doubts as to whether their record keeping is for the express purpose of helping them defend fall down cases on City sidewalks. Many lawyers have abandoned taking city sidewalk cases because they are hard to win, and the City of Chicago rarely or never makes a settlement offer. But I am not afraid of them.
Keep in mind that the City of Chicago defends hundreds of fall down cases on city sidewalks per year. They have lawyers assigned to nothing but these kinds of cases. How good would you be at your job if you did the same thing every day? There is no question that city of Chicago lawyers knows how to defend these cases, so you better hire a lawyer who is very good at putting these cases together.
Also, the Tort Immunity Act gives the City many, many advantages on sidewalk fall down cases. Literally, it is harder to prove a case against the City for a sidewalk fall down than any other Defendant, other than maybe a fall in a park or other recreational property.
Since they do not settle, that means a lawyer who takes a case like this knows he or she is going to be working on the case for years, and that it is virtually guaranteed that the case is going to go to trial, though there is a small possibility that the case will settle right before trial. This is small consolation to an injured person and their lawyer because at this point, the client has already given a deposition and the lawyer had handled the case for a long time and has advanced case costs and invested a lot of time into the case.
As you can see, you can sue for falling on a sidewalk. But these cases are much more complicated than many people understand them to be. And a fall on a private sidewalk or driveway is easier to prove that a fall on a city sidewalk.
If you’ve been injured in a fall down on a sidewalk or if you have fallen on a sidewalk and want to talk to a lawyer, I am available to speak with you for free and give you my opinion about what our chances for success would be.
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