Can You Sue If You Fall Due to a Sidewalk Defect?

On March 13, 2013, a damaged sewer line caused a massive sinkhole in a Holyoke sidewalk. The fissure measured several feet in diameter and was estimated to be approximately 10 to 20 feet deep. United Water, the utility responsible for the sewer lines in that part of Massachusetts, worked feverishly to repair the damage as quickly as possible.

There were no reports of injuries resulting from the sinkhole, although it snarled traffic at the corner of Resnic Boulevard and Beech Street. Had there been injuries, however, the people injured might have had the right to sue for damages.

Here in Boston, it is the responsibility of the city to maintain sidewalks properly. The city will pay legitimate claims for people suffering injury due to a sidewalk defect caused by the City, or one which is not promptly repaired. However, those claims must be submitted within 30 days in order to be considered valid. It is also important to document the incident and obtain reports from medical professionals as needed. It is also vital to obtain photographs of the accident scene as soon as possible.

It is important to note that if you slip and fall due to snow and ice on a sidewalk outside of someone's building, or on private property, like a parking lot, the owner of the property and not just the city may liable. The Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled in 2010 in the case of Papadopoulos v. Target Corp. that private citizens are responsible for clearing the ice and snow from their sidewalks, regardless of whether it is a natural accumulation or an accumulation due to snow plows. In its place would be the premises liability standard of reasonable care.

If you or a loved one suffers injury because of an accident involving a sidewalk defect, it is important to work with an experienced Boston personal injury attorney such as those at the Law Offices of Steven R. Whitman. A good attorney can often make the difference between getting the money you are entitled to and getting nothing but a denial from the courts.


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