If you suffer a serious injury after a slip and fall accident on a sidewalk, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the person or organization responsible. To prove that the property owner is liable for your injuries, you will need to show that the sidewalk was defective in some way. Although every case is different, there are several types of evidence that could support your claim. Here are four of them.
To prove that a property owner is negligent, you'll need to know who that person or organization is. Don't assume that this information is obvious. In some cases, you may need to go to some lengths to establish who is responsible for the stretch of sidewalk concerned. What's more, the type of owner can materially impact your chances of success.
For example, it's often easier to hold a private property owner to account than a municipality or government department. Private property owners are normally responsible for relatively small areas, so the law generally says that they should find it easier to look after defects. Conversely, a municipality may have to care for thousands of kilometers of sidewalk, so their responsibilities are sometimes less comprehensive.
Refer to your local property tax department to find details of the property boundaries that affect the sidewalk where you suffered an injury. For a nominal fee, a property tax clerk can issue you with a report that will show the exact boundaries. In turn, this can help you and your lawyer confirm who to file the lawsuit against.
Even if a sidewalk is obviously hazardous when you slip and fall, by the time the case comes to court, the owner may have repaired the damage. In these cases, you may find it difficult to prove the details of the original defect. As such, a personal injury attorney will often look for a witness statement.
A witness statement is a useful way to corroborate your evidence. An impartial third-party's description of the sidewalk and what happened will often support your claim. A witness statement is also a particularly useful way to confirm what you were doing. In some cases, the defendant may allege that your actions contributed to the accident. A witness can help you prove this was not the case.
There is a fair degree of subjectivity when it comes to defining what is hazardous, so it's always useful to take measurements of certain defects to help support your claim. For example, a cracked or raised paving slab may present a serious trip hazard. By recording the height of the raised slab or the depth of the crack, you can present the court with objective evidence that the sidewalk was hazardous.
Measurements like this are particularly useful in states or cities where a trivial doctrine applies. A trivial doctrine applies when the law considers a defect too trivial to present a hazard. For example, in New York, the trivial doctrine says that a defect is not actionable unless it is greater than four inches. As such, a measurement can often help you immediately show the court that the defect is not trivial. If not, the court may automatically dismiss the case.
Photographic evidence of a defective sidewalk is often a powerful way to present a strong case against the defendant. Without photos, a judge may not find it easy to understand why a sidewalk was defective, and a photograph can also show how one defect is particularly hazardous because of something else on the sidewalk. For example, photographs could show how a stretch of sidewalk has multiple defects and hazards, further highlighting that the property owner has failed to look after the area.
Make sure photos are clear and in focus. Take multiple pictures from different angles to create a comprehensive view of the problem. Where relevant, use objects to help highlight the size of something. For example, you could place the heel of a shoe in a cracked pavement to show how easily the footwear became trapped.
To file a personal injury lawsuit for a defective sidewalk, you must show the court why the area was defective. Talk to an experienced personal injury attorney for more about this topic.