Trip and fall sidewalk injuries are among the most common causes of serious injury. Unfortunately proving negligence against the owner of the defective sidewalk can prove challenging. Most sidewalks are owned by the government. In order to protect itself from personal injury lawsuits, most if not all, municipalities have enacted legislation requiring “prior written notice” of the defective condition. Prior written notice is exactly what it sounds like, prior notice, in writing, to the proper government official, specifically identifying the defective sidewalk. If the defect is not fixed within a certain period of time, the municipality can be held liable for injuries a person suffers.
Some municipalities transfer responsibility to repair defective sidewalks to the adjoining property owners. If the legislation transferring responsibility is fairly written, the adjoining property owner may be financially responsible to the injured party if negligence is shown. However, some municipalities have enacted legislation that is very unfair to injured people. In particular these municipalities have laws that pass the responsibility to repair the sidewalk to the adjoining property owners, but do not transfer tort liability. This means that a person can be injured due to a defective sidewalk that the property owner failed to fix, yet not have any cause of action against the property owner. This is hardly a fair result.