There are over 12,750 miles of sidewalk in New York City. That’s more than the distance between the westernmost tip of Portugal and easternmost point of Severny Island in Russia-the entire breadth of Europe! The Department of Transportation (DOT) replaces nearly 2 million square feet of sidewalk every year but that’s less than 1%. With the traffic, weather patterns, and daily use that every inch of New York City sidewalk sees, it’s no secret there are still miles of unsafe sidewalks out there. Indeed, there are roughly 2,500 lawsuits filed every year by pedestrians injured in defective sidewalk accidents in New York City.
In 2003, NYC no longer wanted to bear the burden of maintaining all the sidewalks. The City enacted Section 19-152 of New York’s Administrative Code, making it the adjoining property owner’s responsibility to maintain/replace any sidewalk, ramp, or slab that adjoins their property. However, the City exempted from this new law, owners of three family dwellings or less, as long as they are owner occupied; which means, the City is still responsible for those specific sidewalks. This legislation was passed because New York City was paying out in excess of $60 million dollars in injury settlements related to defective sidewalks each year with the average monetary award for a single sidewalk accident reaching $20,000.
Commonly observed sidewalk defects include:
•· Raised or uneven sidewalk flagstones
•· Holes and depressions
•· Tree Roots
•· Unsafe “hardware” (such as cellar doors/elevators that are not flush with the ground)
•· Improper “patchwork” repairs
•· Broken or cracked sidewalks
In Defective Sidewalk Cases, Burden of Proof is On the Injured
In City cases, in order to be compensated, the injured party has to prove:
•1) Prior written notice to DOT of the defect
•2) Failure of the DOT to repair the defect within a reasonable time
Because of the change in the law, most defective sidewalk injury cases must be brought against private or commercial property owners rather than the City itself. Even in accidents where City property (such as trees, light posts, parking meters, etc.) are deemed to be the underlying cause of the sidewalk defect, the City will not be held responsible if the adjoining premises is a multiple dwelling, greater than three families, notwithstanding the exemption mentioned before.
If you or a loved one has been injured by a defective sidewalk in New York City, your best recourse is to contact a qualified slip and fall accident attorney-one who can navigate the tricky legislation which governs defective sidewalk liability and can get you the monetary award you deserve in the least amount of time possible. Call the Law Offices of Nussin S. Fogel for a free consultation at (800) 734-9338 or (212) 385-1122 to learn your rights.