Sidewalks are an essential and unavoidable part of life in New Jersey. They are located in residential communities, public spaces, parking garages, private neighborhoods, and virtually everywhere in between. Intended to provide a safe and easy way to navigate everyday life, sidewalks also present possible dangers to pedestrians when they are not properly maintained.
Slip and fall accidents happen every day in New Jersey, from minor incidents resulting in cuts and bruises, to serious cases involving life-threatening injuries. Potential hazards such as uneven walkways, cracks or fissures, and failure to remove snow and ice can cause injury.
The responsibility for maintaining a sidewalk depends on a number of factors, including who owns the sidewalk and the land abutting the sidewalk, whether the sidewalk is a public walkway, and whether the sidewalk is maintained by one or more private property owners in the case of commercial property.
If someone is injured on any type of sidewalk, it is important to seek legal counsel immediately since evidence in these cases may need to be gathered and preserved.
Liability in Sidewalk Accidents
Liability, or who is ultimately responsible for injuries, depends largely on where your accident occurred and who was responsible for maintaining that particular piece of property.
Sidewalk injury claims generally require a level of negligence to be present, whether it be that of a commercial entity, a maintenance contractor or a public entity that failed to properly maintain the sidewalk in question.
Determining who owns the sidewalk where the accident occurred, and who was responsible for maintaining the sidewalk, will ultimately determine who is liable.
Sidewalks on Commerical Property
New Jersey law requires commercial property owners and businesses to maintain in good condition the sidewalks that abut their establishments. Commercial entities are required to keep their sidewalks in a reasonably safe condition, since they are presumably inviting people onto the property to conduct business.
These entities are responsible for addressing things such as large cracks, uneven sidewalks, snow, ice and anything else that may present a danger to pedestrians and other invitees on the property.
If a person is injured due to a dangerous condition on their sidewalk, and the business knew or should should have known about the dangerous condition, the business may be held liable and responsible for that person's damages.
Sidewalks on Public Land
When someone is injured on a public sidewalk, the government may be held responsible for the resulting damages under certain circumstances. In these cases, the government can be the state, a county, municipality or a government employee, depending on where the sidewalk is located and who was responsible for maintaining it.
These claims generally fall under the purview of the New Jersey Tort Claims Act ("TCA"). The TCA is a body of statutory law that governs lawsuits against NJ government entities and their employees. The TCA is a powerful defense for the government, and contains various damages and notice requirements which can complicate these claims.
It is thus advisable to speak with a lawyer immediately after an accident on a public sidewalk, since time is of the essence.
Falls on Private Property
If you're injured on someone's walkway, outside their house for example, then you may be able to seek compensation for damages from the property owner. Indeed, private property owners also have a responsibility to keep their sidewalks safe to a certain degree.
If a property owner is aware of a dangerous condition on their sidewalk and an injury occurs, they may be held liable. Sidewalk liability, however, is more limited with respect to private property owners. Thus, it is advisable to contact a personal injury lawyer with experience in premises liability cases to help you determine the best path forward when an injury is sustained on private property.
What Types of Compensation Are Available?
Plaintiffs in these cases may seek compensation for both economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages are out-of-pocket costs associated with the injuries. They may include emergency room, hospital and doctor's bills, lost wages and other out-of-pocket expenses for medicine or treatment.
Noneconomic damages, on the other hand, compensate injured parties for pain, suffering, disability, impairment and loss of enjoyment of life. These "noneconomic" damages are less easily quantified, but nonetheless extremely important in these cases.
Seek Experienced Counsel
The Reinartz Law Firm has helped many New Jersey residents and their families recover compensation for sidewalk injuries. Slip and fall accidents are time-sensitive and complex legal matters which turn on a number of factors. Contact us today to discuss your potential case and let us help you understand your rights under New Jersey law. Case consultations are free and confidential.