Falling On Your Sidewalk? Can Someone Sue If They Fall and Get Hurt?

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May 25  

Injured From Falling On Your Sidewalk? Fall down injury cases (called “premises liability” cases) are one of the most common kinds of injury cases I get called about. But they are much more complicated than most people realize. 

Many people call me and tell me that since they fell on someone’s property, the property owner is liable for their medical bills. But that is not the law at all.

In fact, it is much harder to sue someone for falling on their property than it is to sue them for a car accident or many other kinds of cases.

I would say that more than half of the people who call me with a fall down type case have some problem, which makes the case difficult or impossible to prove.

For example, if snow or rain or ice falls out of the sky onto a sidewalk and that snow or ice causes someone to fall down, then there is no case. Also, you cannot sue someone for failing to shovel or put down rock salt on their sidewalk or stairs.

However, if there is a gutter or a roof, or some kind of overhang that causes rain or snow to melt and deposit water or ice in a particular area, that might be the basis for suing someone.

Or if a sidewalk is cracked or broken or has a hole in it, which allows water, snow, or ice to pool and freeze and then become covered by newly fallen snow or tree leaves, that might be the basis for a case.

The simple truth is: you can try to sue anyone for lots of different reasons. But personal injury lawyers who handle fall down cases understand that they are tough cases to prove. Years ago, it was easier to find a lawyer to help you with the fall down a case.

But it has been my experience from talking to injured people that it is often difficult to find a lawyer to help you if you have been injured in a fall.

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So can you be sued if someone falls on your sidewalk?

The short answer is yes. However, whether that person will ever find a lawyer willing to file a lawsuit really depends on the particular facts of your case. It is a good idea to speak with a lawyer who has handled fall down cases when talking about the details of your case.

If you have homeowners insurance and somebody was hurt on your property, you should call your insurance company and report it right away. Part of your homeowner’s insurance includes that your insurance company will hire a lawyer to represent you if you are sued.

If you have fallen on somebody else’s property and you believe it is the result of their neglect or carelessness, then talk to a lawyer right away. 

I have quite a bit of experience in these kinds of cases. In fact, I have been able to obtain settlements for clients in cases where other lawyers turned them away or told them they did not have much of a chance.

There are a lot of law cases and rules for these kinds of cases and this makes fall down cases complex. But a good lawyer with lots of experience handling these kinds of cases knows all the cases and laws.

One little detail in a case like this can mean the difference between winning and losing. Either way, if you have this sort of situation going on (if you are afraid of being sued, or if you have been injured on somebody else’s property), then you should call me.

Fall on Private Sidewalk Versus Fall on a City Sidewalk

As mentioned earlier, yes, you can sue for falling on a sidewalk. 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) 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 Chicago city sidewalks, people see that as a normal condition of the sidewalk. They think that you should just have been more careful. Of course, when THEY fall on the sidewalk, their opinion changes!

Falling On Your Sidewalk

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 of falling on your sidewalk.

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.

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 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 a city that leaves 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 know 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.

They also know 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. In addition, the lawyer had handled the case for a long time, 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. A fall on a private sidewalk or driveway is easier to prove than 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.

In a nutshell, if you had an injury from falling on your sidewalk, you have to prove that whoever was owning or managing the property knew or should have known about the condition that caused you to fall in enough time for them to have fixed it.

In other words, if there was nothing wrong with the property that caused you to fall, then you cannot sue for it. If you really just tripped over a curb and the curb was in a good state of repair and there was no other issue, then I do not like your chances of winning a case.

Think about it: so you got hurt and you think you have a personal injury case. Ask yourself:

  • Who are you going to sue and why?  
  • Did they do something wrong which caused you to fall down and get hurt?  
  • If they didn’t do something wrong and if that wrong act didn’t make you fall down, then why would you want that person to be responsible for your personal injuries, anyway?  That wouldn’t be fair.

Lots of people get hurt and there is no one to blame. In those circumstances, there is no lawsuit or claim to make. In every kind of personal injury case, you have to prove that the person you’re suing did something wrong.

If you got hurt and no one did anything wrong, then you can’t sue anybody. But only an experienced attorney who knows a lot about fall down cases can advise you properly as to whether you have a case.

I’ve had a lot of success in fall down personal injury cases, even when, at first, it seemed unlikely that we had a theory of what the defendant did wrong. But I am very good at examining the circumstances and figuring out if everything was okay.

If you have detailed questions, the best thing for you to do is call me at my office. I offer a free case evaluation in person or over the telephone.

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