When someone purchases a property or rental facility to open a business, they have certain obligations to the public who come close to or enter that property. Specifically, homeowners and business owners should do everything they can to maintain reasonably safe facilities. Failing to take a proactive stance on maintenance could mean someone slipping and falling and financial risk that comes with it.
Across New York, including in White Plains, the responsibility for clearing sidewalks and repairing or maintaining them as they age or develop damage falls on owners. Owners have direct responsibility, but tenants, both commercial and residential, may assume those responsibilities when they sign their lease.
Regardless of who owns or uses the facility, there is an obligation to keep publicly-accessible areas clean and to maintain the exterior public spaces, including sidewalks and parking lots. Failing to address snow or ice accumulation or delaying repairs after the sidewalk cracks or heaves could leave a property owner or tenant vulnerable to premises liability claims.
Improperly-maintained sidewalks present a public danger
Most people don’t stare down at the ground in front of them while walking, particularly if they are on a surface that they could reasonably presume is safe and even. Someone walking at a slow pace could trip and hurt themselves or fall into traffic when they encounter a cracked or very uneven portion of sidewalk. Obviously, the risk only increases for those running or jogging on the sidewalk.
Those on bicycles, skateboards and other kinds of personal exercise or transportation with wheels could be at risk for more severe injury due to their increased speed and the risk for slipping or falling that a slick or uneven section of sidewalk poses.
Additionally, those with mobility issues or other disabilities, such as blindness or limited sight, may not notice the problem with the sidewalk until they trip over it and get hurt. Safe and clear sidewalks are a critical part of any urban area. Those who get hurt because they slip on ice or trip over broken or uneven sidewalk may have the right to take legal action against a property owner or tenant under New York law.
Premises liability claims can involve insurance or even court
Most businesses and homeowners already have insurance policies that extend protection for premises liability. These policies cover the potential costs involved with an injury that results from a visit to a property or business.
When you or someone you love gets hurt when they slip or fall on a section of broken or uncleared sidewalk, it may be possible to seek compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages and property damage. In some situations, a premises liability policy will cover those costs. Other times, if there isn’t a policy or the coverage isn’t adequate, a lawsuit against the property’s owner or tenant may be necessary.