When we head out on a walk, most of us likely never give the sidewalk beneath our feet a second thought. After all, they are everywhere. We would like to assume that these sidewalks are safe, but that is not necessarily the case. Unfortunately, there are cracks in the pavement, chipped areas of concrete, and areas where the elevation can suddenly change. Due to these unsafe conditions, serious and even life-threatening injuries can occur.
It is estimated that some 80,000 people are treated in the hospital every year due to fall injuries that occur on sidewalks. Many of these injuries include broken bones and head trauma. The City of Guelph started the Sidewalk Needs Assessment Study and in 2016 discovered that some 463 streets were missing at least one segment of necessary sidewalk and that an estimated $121,000 in sidewalk repairs were needed.
When a slippery or damaged sidewalk results in severe injuries, it is imperative that you consult with an experienced lawyer who can help protect your rights and get you the compensation to which you are entitled.
Our Сracked and defective or broken sidewalks lawyers can meet with you in Guelph for a free initial consultation. Call (416) 364-2000
Causes of Sidewalk Accidents
Whether you are in a hurry to get to work or out taking an afternoon stroll, the last thing you are likely planning on when you leave the house is to trip and fall on the sidewalk. Some of the most common causes of sidewalk accidents include the following:
- Cracks: Seeing a large crack in the sidewalk is quite common. These cracks may start out as small cracks and develop into larger cracks as they age. They may also expand due to soil conditions, weather changes, tree roots, and changes in the seasonal temperatures. Some cracks may be the result of inferior materials when the sidewalks were built or repaired.
- Buckling: It is not uncommon for slabs of concrete to be broken and/or buckle when tree roots underneath the sidewalk push to the surface.
- Uneven Pavement: When concrete or asphalt surfaces separate, uneven sidewalks may be the result. Pooling water may also freeze and push segments of the pavement up. Where the sidewalk is traveled on regularly, sections of the pavement may move and shift creating uneven surfaces.
- Manholes and Grates: City sidewalks are often embedded with manhole covers, metal grates, or cellar doors. These may deteriorate creating uneven walking surfaces, jagged edges, and holes.
- Pipe Caps: Utility and gas pipes that are topped with a cap may stick up from sidewalks creating tripping hazards for people walking.
- Loose Bricks: While these surfaces may be picturesque and quaint, they can be dangerous when the stones or bricks begin to crumble, break, or go missing.
- Ice and Snow – When snow or ice is not properly removed from walkways it can lead to severe slip and fall injuries.
- Construction Flaws: Dangerous sidewalk conditions can be caused by using the wrong materials to construct it, not installing it correctly, or completing the work in weather that is not conducive for construction.
- Debris: Trash cans that are overflowing onto the sidewalk, falling leaves or tree limbs, and children’s toys are just a few of the things that can result in a pedestrian slipping and falling.
Although people of all ages can be a victim of a slip and fall accident, certain people are the most at risk. Those most at risk for these types of accidents include parents with strollers, children, senior citizens, people with mobility challenges, and people using assistive devices such as wheelchairs, canes, and walkers.
Guelph Сracked and Defective or Broken Sidewalks Lawyer Near Me (416) 364-2000
Residential and Business Sidewalks
As a general rule, a business owner or homeowner must repair their sidewalk and keep it in good condition if it is adjoining their property. Failing to do so may result in a pedestrian falling on the sidewalk and being injured. This would be considered negligence on behalf of the business or homeowner.
Under the Occupiers’ Liability Act, the person occupying property in Ontario is required to keep their property reasonably safe for those who enter it. The following are examples of premises where the occupier/owner is responsibility for other people’s safety:
- Restaurants and stores
- Healthcare facilities, hospitals, and retirement residences
- Amusement parks
- Private homes
- Parking lots
- Travel trailers and boats
- Offices and factories
If there are unsafe conditions on the premises, the occupiers/owners of the area are required to adequately and clearly warn anyone who enters the property.
Exceptions to Liability
There are a few situations in which an owner/occupier may not be held liable if a person is injured while using the property:
- The person willingly assumed the risk of the property: The owner/occupier may not be held liable as long as they did not act with reckless disregard or intentionally put someone’s safety at risk. In this situation, if a person signed a liability waiver, they may not be able to hold the owner/occupier responsible if they are injured. However, signing a liability waiver does not always prevent liability if the injuries were caused by an unexpected hazard that the property owner should have taken care of.
- Someone intended to commit criminal activity: If someone is injured while intending to commit a criminal act, and is then injured, they cannot hold the occupier/owner liable for their injuries.
- Trespassers: When a person goes onto a property without permission, he or she is assumed to have willingly accepted any risks of encountering hazards on the property.
- When injuries occur on a recreational premises: People who come onto a property for recreational purposes automatically willingly assume the risks of the property. Recreational property can include forests, farms, recreational trails, private roads, golf courses, wilderness areas, and other places that may close during certain seasons.
- Injuries as a result of the negligence of an independent contractor: If the occupier/owner believed that the work would be adequately completed and the contractor was competent, the occupier/owner may not be held liable.
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Municipalities and Premises Liability
Even government municipalities are responsible for keeping their property conditions safe for anyone who visits or uses government property. This includes roads and sidewalks. Municipal liability is defined in the Ontario Municipal Act which also sets the standards for maintaining services and a broad variety of infrastructure. However, liability for government properties is a bit different than that of a business owner. For example, when it comes to maintaining sidewalks, municipalities must be “grossly negligent” in maintaining the sidewalk to be deemed liable for a person’s injuries. Conversely, owners/occupiers of businesses are required to take reasonable steps to fix dangerous conditions and keep people safe on their property.
Contact a Slip, Trip, and Fall Lawyer Today
If you have been injured by a trip and fall accident due to a defective or broken sidewalk, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Contact the lawyers at Preszler Law today and let us ensure your rights are protected and you get the compensation to which you are entitled.