When it comes to slip and fall accidents in the State of New York, there is a general rule: if you slip or trip and get hurt because of someone else’s negligence or an unreasonable safety hazard on their property, you are entitled to financial compensation for your damages.
But slip and fall claims can be complex, especially when the accident happens on a sidewalk.
The question of who is liable for a slip and fall accident on a sidewalk in New York depends on where in New York the accident happens and the cause of the fall.
New York City, for example, has its own set of rules about sidewalk liability. A different set of rules will apply in the cities of the Hudson Valley or elsewhere in the state. And if the accident happens because of ice or snow, the analysis can become even more complicated.
This article is designed to provide a brief and general overview of who is liable for a slip and fall accident on a sidewalk in New York. But before we dive in, we want you to know one thing: if you have been injured because of someone else’s negligence, you have rights.
While it’s helpful to understand the general rules about sidewalk liability, please never make assumptions about how the law might apply to the specific facts of your accident. Instead, we invite anyone injured on a sidewalk in New York to contact our premises liability lawyers and schedule a confidential, no-cost consultation.
Who Is Liable for a Slip and Fall Accident on a Sidewalk in the Hudson Valley?
Each city in the State of New York can establish its own rules about municipal liability for sidewalk liability, and most cities have.
In the cities of Kingston, Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, and Ellenville — and in most cities outside of New York City — the city government can only be held liable for a sidewalk accident if the government had prior written notice of the dangerous sidewalk condition (“defect”) and failed to address it within a reasonable period of time.
Accordingly, as slip & fall lawyers, one of our first steps when investigating a slip and fall accident on a sidewalk is to determine whether the city had actual knowledge of the sidewalk defect prior to the accident.
In some cases, we do indeed learn that people have already complained about a cracked, broken, sunken, or uneven sidewalk (for example) and that the relevant municipality failed to take reasonable action to repair it.
However, even if it turns out the city did not have prior written notice, you may still have options for achieving a financial recovery.
In fact, you may very well have a claim against the private or commercial property owner whose property “abuts” (that is, “borders”) the portion of the sidewalk where your accident happened.
Property owners generally have a duty to maintain their sidewalks, storefronts, and entryways in a reasonably safe condition. If they fail to do so, they may be held liable for injuries that happen as a result. In these cases, it is not necessary for the private or commercial property owner to have received actual written notice of the defect. As long as the owner knew or should have known about the dangerous condition, the owner was under a duty to correct it within a reasonable amount of time.
Determining who is liable for a slip and fall accident on a sidewalk can be complicated, however. While we have briefly described the general rules for the Hudson Valley here, the specific facts and circumstances of any given accident can make all the difference. Talk to an experienced Kingston premises liability lawyer in our office to better understand your rights.
Who Is Liable for a Slip and Fall Accident on a Sidewalk in New York City?
It used to be that the City of New York was almost always responsible for sidewalk slips and falls. However, the City has increasingly shifted that responsibility to the commercial businesses that own and operate the property next to the sidewalk.
Today, the City of New York will generally only be liable for a sidewalk slip and fall if the accident meets all three of these conditions:
- The relevant portion of sidewalk abuts (borders) a one-family, two-family, or three-family residential home.
- The home’s owner resides there.
- The City of New York had prior written notice of the sidewalk defect.
Otherwise, sidewalk slip and fall accidents in NYC are governed by New York City Administrative Code Section 7-210. It requires businesses to maintain any section of sidewalk abutting their property in a “reasonably safe condition.”
If the business knew or should have known about the dangerous condition on the sidewalk and failed to take reasonable action to make the sidewalk section safe, and if such failure caused your injury, you are entitled to bring a claim for your damages against the business.
Most sidewalk slip and fall claims in NYC are filed against the commercial entity that owns or operates the abutting property. And in many cases, that business will have a liability insurance policy responsible for covering such claims.
Determining who is liable for a slip and fall accident on a sidewalk in NYC is a complex matter. It’s best to talk with an experienced personal injury lawyer to fully understand how the rules would apply to any claim you might have.
Slip and Fall Accidents on Private or Residential Sidewalks
Sidewalk accidents don’t always happen in public. Some sidewalks are located entirely on private or residential property. Injury claims in these cases are more likely to proceed under the general rules of personal injury and premises liability in New York.
Property owners are expected to inspect their property, take reasonable efforts to maintain the premises in a safe condition, and to warn visitors or the public about any reasonably foreseeable harm.
If you are injured in a sidewalk slip and fall on private or residential property, your damages may be covered under or one more liability insurance policies, such as the homeowner’s insurance policy. A Hudson Valley premises liability lawyer at O’Connor and Partners can help you understand your options.
What If the Accident Happens Because of Ice or Snow?
Here in New York, ice and snow are responsible for a large portion of sidewalk injuries. In fact, Google searches for “sidewalk slip and fall” in New York skyrocket during the winter months each year.
Precisely because snowy weather causes so many accidents in New York, the laws on liability become even more complex when winter weather is a factor.
Property owners do generally have a duty to clear accumulated ice and snow from sidewalks abutting their premises — an extension of their duty to maintain the sidewalk in general.
But courts and lawmakers have also realized that snow sometimes accumulates too quickly to clear right away. Accordingly, liability in this case may depend on a number of factors, including (but not necessarily limited to):
- The time of day
- Whether snow is still falling
- How long the snow or ice has been accumulated on the sidewalk
- Which city the accident happened in*
- Whether any other hazards or negligence also contributed to the accident
*Note that even within New York City, different boroughs have slightly different rules when it comes to who is liable for a slip and fall accident on a sidewalk when caused by ice or snow.
What If the Accident Happens Because of Your Own Negligence?
Sometimes, an accident victim’s own negligence contributes to their slip and fall. If you are found to be partially at fault for your injuries, you may still be able to recover a portion of your damages under New York’s comparative fault laws.
Free & Confidential Consultation with a Hudson Valley Premises Liability Lawyer
O’Connor and Partners is a personal injury law firm based in Kingston and providing legal services across the state, including: Kingston, Newburgh, Poughkeepsie, Ellenville, the Hudson Valley, New York City (NYC), and beyond.
We fight hard to maximize compensation for injured New Yorkers and their families. We are proud to offer confidential, no-cost, no-obligation claim consultations to accident victims throughout the state.
If you choose to hire us after your consultation, we will not charge you a fee unless we get you money first.
If you can’t come to us, we will come to you. Just contact us online or call 845-303-8777 to talk with an experienced Hudson Valley premises liability lawyer today.