Uneven pavement trip and falls are perhaps the most common type of injury case we handle here at Shaw Law.
This is due to the natural settling of pavement and sidewalks in front of businesses, stores and other properties.
People who are injured by tripping over uneven pavement often fall forward (rather than backwards as slip and falls on ice).
This causes a very common type of injury -- often a broken wrist, a torn rotator cuff injury or a broken arm due to outstretched arms trying to break the fall. Sometimes, a person might hit his head and suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or bleeding on the brain.
Obviously, it is very important that businesses check and inspect their property for dangerous conditions such as uneven pavement.
But, how how high must uneven pavement be before it is actionable when a person is injured?
The answer depends upon whether the unevenness is considered unreasonably dangerous. Sometimes, pavement can become uneven over a long period of time, but still remain inconspicuous to pedestrians and landowners alike.
While the law requires landowners to exercise reasonable care for the safety of all invitees (customers and social guests) on its property, the question still remains whether the landowner was "negligent" under the circumstances. This question depends upon a variety of factors: did the landowner provide warning signs for pedestrians of the uneven pavement? Did the pedestrian know the pavement was uneven at that spot and appreciate the danger?
Many cities, such as Fort Wayne, Indiana, have ordinances that require homeowners and businesses to keep sidewalks in good repair for those using the sidewalk. In fact, it has been found that a 1/2-inch rise in pavement was enough to hold a landowner responsible for injuries caused to an unsuspecting person.
There are written standards for safe walkway surfaces of all kinds -- including sidewalks -- which require prominent warnings or visual cues to alert pedestrians to the location of small changes in elevation of sidewalks. One way to provide a warning is seen everyday -- a change in color to alert the pedestrian (such as yellow paint on curbs). This helps because most pedestrians look ahead and not down at their feet when walking.
The American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM International) is a group that started in 1898 designed to help make the world more safe by combining a variety of professions such as engineers, architects and other safety professionals by enacting standards for safe living, including walkways. These guidelines perform a function -- helping businesses and landowners see what is required to keep a property safe and "up to code." A landowner who violates the guidelines might be found to be negligent in a court of law for not following safety rules -- even if the landowner is unaware the ASTM rules exist. (See ASTM 1637 for the guideline on safe walkways).
If an uneven pavement situation was unreasonably dangerous, such that an employee or other reasonable person would have noticed that it was dangerous and warned pedestrians of fixed the problem, but the owner of the property in question failed to do so, this evidence of a failure to warn or failure to inspect might be used in a premises liability lawsuit. Premises owners have a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect Indiana customers from foreseeable dangers on their premises.
If you've been injured by tripping over an uneven pavement or sidewalk, call experienced lawyers like Shaw Law and Attorney Jeff JJ Shaw. We've been fighting for injured people for over 30+ years with claims just like yours.
Cracked Sidewalks, Uneven Pavement and Other Slip and Falls in Indianapolis and Indiana
In Indiana, cracked sidewalks and unexpected uneven levels of walkways, pathways, parking lots and sidewalks can wreak havoc with your health if you trip and fall.
An experienced cracked sidewalk or uneven level Indiana slip and fall lawyer is someone you may need to turn to see if the landowner or manager did not appropriately care for their property leaving you with injuries after you suffered a slip and fall accident.
When a cracked sidewalk or uneven level of walkway presents a reasonable risk of injury, a landowner is under a duty to remedy the situation or appropriately warn of its potentially dangerous condition.
It does not matter if the landowner caused the cracked sidewalk or uneven level of it, negligence law requires a remedy or warning by the landowner if he or she is knowledgeable about the situation or should be knowledgeable. Simply ignoring the problem is not acceptable behavior by the landowner, and if you are injured you might be able to hold the landowner responsible for your damages – which can include medical bills, mental anguish, pain and suffering, lost wages, lost future wages and scars and disfigurement as well as a diminishment in the overall quality of your life.
When Does a Cracked Sidewalk or Uneven Walking Surface Become “Negligence” in Indiana?
Not every sidewalk accident will be actionable with a legal claim. It depends upon a variety of factors and only an experienced trip and fall Indiana attorney can perform the investigation you deserve. You might think you’re entitled to recovery but you won’t be sure until you speak directly with your injury lawyer.
Many slip and fall injuries are completely preventable and proper maintenance and care of a sidewalk is one way to decrease the chances of a critical injury. There are a variety of methods to cure or remedy a cracked sidewalk or uneven level of walking surface in Indiana. For example, some landowners might “shave” the concrete to create a slope for the unsuspecting traveler. Other ways include new concrete work or raising the concrete with companies that specialize in that activity.
Many people are not familiar with their rights and responsibilities as it relates to cracked sidewalks that cause uneven levels of a walking surface. But, if the injured person can show that the property owner knew or should have known about the dangerous condition of the cracked sidewalk and failed to take necessary precautions such as described above, then a viable claim can exist. At the very least, an appropriate warning sign of the potentially dangerous condition should be in place by the landowner. Painting the uneven level with an orange fluorescent paint is a commonly seen remedy that warns unsuspecting customers of the potential danger.
Common Defense to a Cracked Sidewalk or Uneven Walking Surface Case in Indiana?
A common defense to these types of claims by landowners include that the uneven level of the walkway or the cracked sidewalk or pavement was “open and obvious” to the customer who should have appreciate its danger. But, this type of defense ignores that it is often impossible for a person – who is looking down and being 100% careful – to recognize subtle differences in elevation that can cause a person’s toe to catch upon the raised pavement or sidewalk and lead to an injurious tumble.
Moreover, the difference in elevation or the cracked sidewalk or uneven level of parking lot or sidewalk is probably a progressive condition caused over time. A first-time visitor to a business, store or restaurant might not have the same awareness that the landowner or business proprietor does of the potentially dangerous condition.
After all, a reasonable inspection schedule by the landowner can reveal dangerous cracks in sidewalks, pathways and parking lots. With that knowledge, then the landowner can take the steps necessary to remedy the danger. Blaming the person who tripped and fell is an obvious deflection of who has the ultimate responsibility for the injury.
There are also building codes that could apply to this type of situation, particularly ASTM 1637, if the uneven level was directly situated in a pathway for customers of a business. That type of case might need an expert witness to opine about the ASTM codes or ANSI codes involved.
We Are On Your Side
You'll need an experienced lawyer like Attorney Jeff "JJ" Shaw to discuss and retain these expert witnesses like he has done dozens and dozens of times before.
A property owner might be held responsible in a premises liability lawsuit for differences in elevation like cracked sidewalks or concrete deterioration for lost wages, future impairment, disfigurement, mental anguish, medical bills, pain and suffering, and other expenses tied to the incident.
The simple truth is that the vast majority of trip and fall or slip and fall incidents can be avoided with appropriate precaution and maintenance.
Call or Text Shaw Law at (260) 777-7777. Get your lawyer working on your claim right away.
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