Posted in Blog on March 23, 2016
According to a recent article in The Denver Post, City Council members have been meeting to discuss the issue of missing or unmaintained sidewalks in Denver and the risks of slip and fall injuries. Numerous neighborhoods in the city may not be safe for pedestrians, as sidewalks either are in poor states of repair or are absent altogether. Without properly maintained sidewalks, pedestrians and people in wheelchairs are forced to “take to the street and cross some thoroughfares far from traffic lights,” according to the article. Indeed, there are currently “hundreds of miles of streets” in Denver with missing sidewalks, and hundreds more neighborhood streets with sidewalks show their age with cracks and disjointed pavement.
If someone were to suffer a slip, trip, or fall injury on a poorly maintained sidewalk or if a pedestrian were struck by a car while walking on a section of street with missing sidewalks, who could be held liable? Would the government be held liable, or could property owners face liability?
One of the issues concerning sidewalk improvement is a “decades-old city ordinance that makes adjacent property owners responsible for building and maintaining sidewalks,” according to the article. And City Council members are not the only ones to identify this problem. To be sure, neighborhood safety and pedestrian advocates also cite this city ordinance, emphasizing that homeowners frequently cannot afford the high costs of repairing these sidewalks. The only instances in which there appears to be some improvement is when Denver residents file complaints with the city, but at the same time, there is “minimal city enforcement.”
Up until now, city officials have tried to avoid taking on the burden of sidewalk creation and maintenance. Two of the biggest reasons that Denver does not want to undertake the sidewalk issue are that it is going to cost a lot of money, and the city could end up being liable for injuries that occur. Estimates suggest that an overhaul of the sidewalk system in the city—both building sidewalks where they do not exist and repairing those that have deteriorated and have become dangerous—could be as high as in the hundreds of millions.
Certain City Council members contend that Denver needs to step up and take responsibility for the aging sidewalk structure that puts pedestrians at risk everyday. The city could also find ways to help residents to pay the high costs. But what would this mean in terms of liability?
Generally speaking, if property owners are responsible for the costs of sidewalk construction and maintenance, a premises liability lawsuit could allow an injury victim to hold a homeowner responsible for a trip and fall injury that takes place on a cracked sidewalk. But at the same time, the city should bear some responsibility. And it could indeed be liable in instances where it agreed to repair a sidewalk on which a pedestrian gets hurt.
If you have questions about filing a slip and fall claim, our experienced Denver premises liability lawyers can help. Fill out our online form or give us a call today.