Is a Property Owner Liable for Accidents on a Sidewalk in California?

woman in heels hurting her ankle on a cracked sidewalkIf there is a structural hazard on a sidewalk and you fall, the owner of the property where the sidewalk is may be financially responsible for your injuries in some parts of California.

The laws pertaining to property owner liability for sidewalk accidents can be complex. Below, we discuss how state and local ordinances may affect your legal options if you are injured in a sidewalk slip and fall accident. However, every case is different.

Call our Sacramento slip and fall lawyers to discuss your claim during a free legal consultation. If you choose to work with us, there are no upfront fees for our services.

What Does California Law Say About Property Owner Liability?

Property owners in California have a legal duty to maintain the sidewalks adjacent to their properties in safe conditions. If the sidewalk requires repairs due to a tree root uplifting the cement, then the property owner is financially responsible for the cost of repairs.

However, this does not mean property owners are liable for damages if someone falls on the sidewalk.

This legal precedent was established by the 1989 case Williams v Foster. The Sixth District Court of Appeals of California determined that property owners could not be liable for damages suffered in a sidewalk accident on their property unless there was a local ordinance that explicitly specified otherwise.

How Do Local Ordinances Affect Property Owner Liability?

After the court ruling, some municipalities in California enacted local ordinances to specify property owner liability for accidents that occurred on property-adjacent sidewalks.

For example, the city of San Jose has an ordinance stating that property owners may be liable for accidents that occur on sidewalks adjacent to their property. A court ruling in 2004 determined the ordinance was legal and therefore property owners could be held financially responsible for injuries that occurred on a sidewalk.

There are 58 counties in the state of California. Each one has municipal governments that may have different rules and regulations about liability for sidewalk accidents. It may be in your best interest to consult with an attorney to determine what your legal options are.

What is Exercise of Control and How Does it Affect Property Owner Liability?

Exercise of control is when the property owner does something that initiates control over the sidewalk. For example, installing a ramp on the sidewalk to make it more wheelchair accessible.

Two California cases have set a legal precedent making property owners who exercise control over a sidewalk near their property liable for damages if the modifications to the sidewalk result in an accident.

In other words, if a property owner installs a sidewalk ramp for a wheelchair, but that ramp causes someone to trip and get injured, the property owner could be held liable for damages the passerby suffered.

If the property owner is repairing the sidewalk, this could be considered exercise of control, even though he or she is under legal obligation to do so. Therefore, while a sidewalk is undergoing maintenance, the property owner must take precautions to ensure passersby are not injured. This could include having warning signs or closing off parts of the sidewalk.

Sidewalk maintenance is usually conducted with permission from the local government, so the property owner should have the authority to restrict access to the sidewalk, even though it is technically considered a city right-of-way.

What if the Property Owner is a Municipal Government?

If you are injured in a sidewalk accident, and said sidewalk is owned and maintained by a municipal government, that government entity may be liable for your damages.

This is because the same rules that apply to private property owners apply to government entities.

Therefore, you may be able to pursue compensation for your damages from a local government body.

Call a Knowledgeable Attorney Today

If you fell on a sidewalk and suffered damages, you may be wondering what your legal options are when pursuing compensation. California law establishes when a property owner may or may not be liable for your damages.

The laws in each county may vary. That is why having an attorney on your side is important. Our lawyers know California law and are prepared to help you fight for compensation.

The initial consultation is free, and there are no upfront fees for our services.

Call 916-777-7777 today to learn more.