Severe cuts and bruises, broken bones, fractured skulls, traumatic brain injuries, chronic pain and suffering, hospitalization, rehabilitation, medical bills, and lost income.
These are just some of the consequences that can result from slip, trip and fall accidents, a problem pedestrians face daily across New York City.
At The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., Attorney David Perecman and our attorneys have represented numerous clients who suffered harm in slip, trip, and fall accidents. As Mr. Perecman notes, even though premises liability allows victims to hold negligent landowners responsible for hazardous property conditions, far too many property owners fail to adequately or timely address potential dangers. Sometimes, he notes, victims pay the ultimate price.
“The most common sidewalk accidents are nothing to treat lightly. The effects of a fall can be serious and potentially life threatening.”
Sidewalk accidents can result in various injuries. Some of the most common include:
- Broken wrists or “Colles” fractures
- Foot and ankle tears
- Leg and ankle fractures, including “Lisfranc” and metatarsal fractures
- Knee and hip tears and fractures
- Back injuries
- Avulsion fractures
What to Do After a Sidewalk Accident
It is important that pedestrians involved in slip and fall accidents seek medical attention. Mr. Perecman advises victims to always get a physical examination following an accident and to resist underestimating the severity of an injury, as there may be serious problems that are not readily obvious. After an accident, he advises victims to take out their cell phones and call 911 immediately. Pedestrians should contact the police so that a report is created, seek medical attention from ambulance personnel, and go to the hospital.
“No matter how upset you might become, never put legal concerns ahead of medical needs,” Perecman says.
After calling for help, victims can take pictures of the scene, including the sidewalk where the accident occurred and any visible defects, debris, or cracks, no matter how slight. Accident victims, Mr. Perecman says, can better prove their claims with pictures of the defects.
“If you can, try to take good quality pictures or have someone take them for you before you leave the scene of the accident. Otherwise, go back or have someone go back and get them for you as soon as possible. This is particularly true in hazardous transitory situations, like when the sidewalk is covered with ice and snow.”
Mr. Perecman also advises victims to make sure the police write up a report of the accident and to obtain a copy of the report and information from supporting witnesses:
- If the accident takes place on private property, ask management or the owner of the property to provide you with a copy of the report before you leave the scene.
- If they refuse, demand one from them at their earliest convenience.
- Gather names and phone numbers from as many witnesses as possible.
Timely action is important, as property owners and managers may attempt to rectify hazards after they have caused injury.
As an example, Mr. Perecman describes a case handled by our firm involving a man who fell into a hole on private property. The man’s friend took photos while a contractor was actively trying to cover the exposed hole with plywood.
“For reasons like this, we send our own investigator out to the scene of the accident when we are retained in a slip, trip and fall case. Assuming the investigator is able to get there prior to the defect being fixed, we are able to take photos that clearly show the defect. I can’t tell you how often this type of evidence is just about all we need to prove a case. A picture is worth a thousand words.”
NYC’s Sidewalk Defect Problem
New York City’s sidewalks and public walkways are used by countless people each day, but data shows the City routinely fails to timely address potential hazards.
- Homeowners wait, on average, 101 days from the date of submitting a request to have tree-damaged sidewalks inspected – 71 days longer than the NYC Parks’ 30-day response target.
- The average time from inspection to repair of tree-damaged sidewalks was 419 days in FY 2017, with one repair taking over a decade to complete.
- Nearly 10% of street potholes are repaired more than 15 days after the date of the report.
Despite poor response times, slip and fall lawsuits against the city have decreased since 2003, when a law partially shifted the responsibility for faulty sidewalks to commercial property owners and owners of multiple unit dwellings — shielding the city against many claims. “In many instances, the city has placed the onus of failure to maintain sidewalks on the property managers and landlords,” Perecman said.
While victims can seek compensation for their damages against negligent private property owners who fail to repair, replace, or warn about hazardous conditions, they may not always be able to do the same against the City. In order for an injured pedestrian to win a lawsuit against the City of New York for a street or sidewalk defect, the City of New York must have written notice of the defect on file for a minimum of 15 days prior to the accident.
This regulation, enacted by the City of New York in 1979, has become known as The Pothole Law.
“Prior to the adoption of this law, all a victim’s lawyer had to do was find a witness to the existence of the defect, or an expert who could tell by looking at a photo how long the defect had been there and that it should have been fixed. The Pothole Law changed all of that for cases against New York City. The old law still applies to private property owners. In these instances prior written notice of the defect is not required.”
In an effort to level the playing field for victims with serious slip, trip, and fall injuries, the New York State Trial Lawyers Association formed the Big Apple Pothole and Sidewalk Corp. The group canvases sidewalks and crosswalks across the city and creates maps identifying the locations of defects. Those maps are on file with The New York Department of Transportation, and they help provide the type of evidence needed to bring and prove these cases in court.
In addition to navigating legal hurdles, Mr. Perecman also cautions victims about what they say after an accident. While there is no legal difference between slipping, tripping, or falling, victims should still be careful about how they describe what happened. As he notes of a past case:
“We had a client who fell down the stairs of a building because the anti-slip matting on the staircase had worn away. She told the defendant’s lawyer during deposition that she tripped and fell down the stairs of her building. When questioned about the accident later in court, she said she had ‘slipped.’ All she knew was that she fell down the stairs, but she had used the term trip earlier to describe the fall down the stairs. It was a simple mistake, slipped instead of tripped.
Before she could be made to look like a liar, she explained that she had slipped causing her to trip or fall down the stairs. I explained my client’s mistake to the jury during summation. The jury retired to deliberate and 7 minutes later returned with a verdict against the landlord.
A damages trial ensued and the jury awarded my client just shy of $1.7 million. The judge reduced the verdict because he said the trial was ‘unfair.’
He said having me up against the landlord’s lawyer was like having The New York Yankees up against a farm team. The case was then settled for $650,000, far more than the $150,000 the landlord offered.”
The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C. has recovered over half a billion dollars in compensation for victims injured in preventable accidents, including premises accidents involving slips, trips, and falls. If you have questions about your rights after a street or sidewalk accident, contact us for a FREE consultation.