Sidewalk Injury Lawyer in San Francisco
Many California trip and fall cases happen on sidewalks. Often, people trip in places where one section of a sidewalk is raised, causing a tripping hazard. This commonly results from tree roots. When tree roots disrupt a sidewalk and cause a fall, determining the ownership of the trees can be important. In San Francisco, for example, the city keeps a list detailing every street tree owned by the City.
In other cities, more investigation may be needed to find out who owned the tree. Also, many California cities have laws making the property owner responsible for keeping the sidewalks fronting their property safe, whether or not a city-owned tree caused the damage.
Sidewalk Trip and Fall Accidents
When a sidewalk fall is caused be a raised section, or slab, proving how much the section was raised is very important. Getting an attorney on board quickly can ensure that measurements will be taken, and documented with photographs. If the distance involved is less than about one inch, California law holds that the case might be subject to the “trivial defect” rule. Other factors that are important include prior falls, the type of shoes you were wearing, and whether there is any distraction, such as a store window, nearby. California law recognizes that store windows distract people, and there is a lowered responsibility to look at where you are stepping if there is a recognized distraction nearby.
Your shoes are important too. After a fall, the shoes become evidence in the case, and should be saved and not used again until the case is over. If the shoes are very worn, or have very high heels, this will give the defense something to use to attempt to show that the fall is your fault.
Who’s Responsible & Liable for a Sidewalk Injury?
In many sidewalk fall cases, repairs are made after the person falls, but before the claim is complete. This is why it is a good idea to hire an attorney promptly, so that evidence can be preserved. Many people are surprised to learn that these “subsequent repairs” cannot be used in California to prove that the sidewalk was a hazard. This rule is in place to encourage owners to make repairs and protect public safety.
Many California sidewalk injury cases are caused by uneven pavement, where some sections are raised up, causing a tripping hazard. California law recognizes that when there is a window display, or goods on shelves in stores, people will not be looking down. This means that you are not held responsible for a fall just because you were not looking down to see where every step was going. Store owners are required to inspect their floors regularly during open hours to be sure that there is nothing there that could cause a fall.
California being the largest state, there are many, many cases interpreting and further stating the law on premises liability. Cases on sidewalk injuries, for example, have defined a “trivial defect rule,” which is generally interpreted as requiring a height differential of one inch or more between adjacent sections of pavement before liability will be found against a property owner for a trip and fall. Of course, not all sidewalk cases involve trips on areas of broken pavement, or sections of pavement raised up by tree roots or other causes, but most do. At Callaway & Wolf, we have also had successful sidewalk cases based on slipperiness—failure to maintain a safe surface.
Many California property owners and stores have a type of no-fault insurance called “Medical Payments,” which can pay some of your medical bills – up to a set amount – even if the owner disputes that they are responsible for the fall. This can provide you a way to be paid for some of your bills even before you reach a settlement.
What’s California’s Statute of Limitations on Sidewalk Trip and Fall Cases?
California has a two-year statute of limitations for sidewalk fall injury cases against private property owners. This limit runs from the date of the fall, and the case must be settled or filed in court before it runs. If a governmental entity such as the State, or a city or county entity such as BART is involved, this time limit shrinks down to just six months for a claim filing deadline (see California Tort Claims Act). Even though you may have plenty of time before your time limit is up, we can help guide you through the process from day one, helping to insure that the proper groundwork is done for your claim.
Contact a Lawyer for Sidewalk Falls & Injuries
If you or someone you know has been injured in a California sidewalk fall, call 415-541-0300 for a free consultation to speak to a sidewalk fall lawyer in San Francisco at Callaway & Wolf. Or contact us conveniently online.