Yes, if the city has the responsibility for maintenance and owns the portion of the sidewalk on which you slipped and fell and suffered injuries. If another entity (such as a private property owner, or condo or homeowner association) owned the sidewalk or was responsible for its maintenance, you may have to file a claim to receive compensation for your slip and fall injuries and losses from an entity other than the city.
Government Entities vs. Private Property Owners
Most cities and municipalities will own the public sidewalks on which people walk. In fact, most local governments are in charge of keeping the sidewalks in a safe condition through regular maintenance. This precedent was originally decided in 1953 in the case of Woods v. City of Palatka (in regard to Florida law). This case determined that a city has a responsibility to maintain safe sidewalks for its citizens as a fundamental proprietary function of the city.
However, that same case stated that the burden and responsibility can be shared with private property owners—in some instances. If a public walkway is connected in some way to personal property, a property owner could negatively impact the safety of the sidewalk through overgrown trees, bushes, or throwing some sort of debris in the walkway. In these instances, a private property owner would, in fact, be liable for a slip and fall accident on a public sidewalk.
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Government Claims vs. Civil Claims
Making a determination regarding liability and responsibility for a slip and fall accident is critical, as the rest of the case will develop based on that fundamental decision.
Suing a City, Municipality or Another Governmental Entity
If a determination is made that a city, municipality or another governmental entity is responsible for any injuries or losses resulting from a slip and fall accident on a public sidewalk, the first step is to file a “notice of claim” regarding the accident with the Florida Department of Financial Services. After this notice of claim, there is an entirely different set of rules and deadlines that a victim must follow in order to attempt to receive compensation for injuries suffered on a public sidewalk owned and maintained by the city or another governmental entity. Additionally, the statute of limitations (deadline) to file a case against a government entity in the state of Florida is only three years under FL § 768.28(6)(a). Therefore, time is of the essence in order to ensure that a victim’s legal rights are protected.
Suing a Private Property Owner
If you are attempting to sue a private property owner, or condo or homeowner association, you will not have to alert the government in any way as you would if you were filing a claim against a governmental entity. In an important decision, Florida’s Third District Court of Appeals ruled in the case of Esther Del Rio v. City of Hialeah that private property owners may be still responsible for slip and fall accidents even if they are owned by a governmental entity.
If you plan on filing a claim against a private property owner, you will need to:
- Alert the defendant and insurance company
- Interview witnesses
- Conduct an investigation
- Hire expert witnesses
- Negotiate with insurance companies in order to attempt to receive an appropriate settlement amount for your injuries and losses
If you suffered a serious injury, you may be facing substantial medical bills, the inability to return to work resulting in lost wages, pain and suffering and other non-economic damages such as the inability to walk, hold your children, or perform daily tasks. The statute of limitations for personal injury cases in the state of Florida is four years from the date of the accident under FL § 95.11, therefore, it is critical that you begin the process as soon as possible since slip and fall cases can take a considerable amount of time to develop.
Contact Chalik & Chalik Injury Lawyers for More Information
While you may sue a city if you slipped and fell on a sidewalk, there may be other parties who could also be liable. For instance, private property owners, condo associations or homeowner associations. Making the determination regarding liability can be a complex and challenging legal task. While in many cases in the state of Florida, either a city or municipality will own the public sidewalk on which you fell, it is important to determine accurate responsibility in order to allow a victim to receive compensation for any injuries or losses due to the slip and fall accident.
Contact Chalik & Chalik Injury Lawyers at (855) 529-0269. We can provide a free consultation regarding your slip and fall case that occurred on a sidewalk, and help you determine which parties remain liable to compensate you for your injuries and losses.
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