It is no secret that many of Yakima’s sidewalks have seen better days. Due to winter weather, tree roots, or other conditions, many sidewalks have crumbled into hundreds of pieces. Unfortunately, innocent pedestrians can trip on uneven pavement, cracks, or potholes, injuring themselves in the process.
Generally, the responsibility for keeping sidewalks in good repair falls to the owner of the property that abuts the sidewalk. However, identifying this owner can be complicated.
Are Sidewalks Public Property?
No. Sidewalks belong to the property owner. However, the city has granted the public an easement to walk on them, which is why property owners cannot exclude the public from travelling on sidewalks.
Yakima’s Municipal Code lays out the responsibilities of property owners with respect to sidewalks and makes them the liable party when there are defects. For example, Yakima Municipal Code 8.76.025 imposes on property owners the burden, duty, and expense of cleaning and maintaining the sidewalks abutting their property. This duty to clean the sidewalk includes duties to remove leaves, weeds, and other debris (like fallen branches). It also includes a duty to keep a travel path clear and remove any obstructions from overhanging vegetation.
Who Is Responsible for Sidewalk Repair?
Yakima’s municipal code also explains when sidewalk repair responsibility falls to the property owner. Under 8.76.040, property owners may repair an unfit or unsafe sidewalk and bear the costs of doing so. This power is optional, if the property owner wants the sidewalk to be in better condition.
However, the municipal code also includes a procedure where the Director of Public Works can find that repairing the sidewalk is necessary. Under 8.76.060, the Director of Public Works provides a notice to property owners instructing them to repair the sidewalk. This notice should also include specifications that the owner must follow. If the owner refuses, the city can go ahead and fix the sidewalk and then assess the costs to the property owner.
How Do You Establish Liability after a Fall on a Sidewalk?
If the property owner has not followed the city’s municipal code, then you have powerful proof that they have been negligent and not kept their property reasonably safe. If you trip on broken pavement or slip on leaves or other debris, then you can typically seek compensation from the property owner.
One tricky issue is determining who owns the property and bears the burden of keeping the sidewalk safe. Often, this issue arises if you fall in front of an apartment building or a commercial building. A tenant might be responsible, but in many cases the property owner remains responsible. Your premises liability attorney in Yakima might need to investigate and look at the lease to determine whether the property owner continues to be responsible for repairing the sidewalk.
What Should You Do After Tripping and Falling?
If you want to hold the property owner responsible for your injuries, you need evidence of what happened. With this evidence, you can either sue or seek a settlement to cover your losses.
No piece of evidence is more powerful than a photograph. If possible, take pictures of the state of the sidewalk or the debris that you tripped over on the day that you fell. Chances are the owner will quickly repair the sidewalk, perhaps raking up leaves or quickly filling a pothole, so you want documentary evidence of its condition the day of your accident.
Also try to visit the doctor as soon as possible. Medical records can document the seriousness of your injuries, as well as the pain you feel. Remember to hold onto all medical bills and receipts, since your lawyer will need these to estimate the amount of compensation you can receive. If you missed work because of the fall, obtain copies of your pay stubs or proof of self-employment income.
Speak to a Yakima Premises Liability Attorney Today
Trips and falls can happen anywhere, even when walking down a sidewalk in Yakima. If a property owner has left the sidewalk in a dangerous condition, then you can hold them responsible for any injuries that result. Instead of seeking compensation on your own, you should hire a qualified premises liability attorney in Yakima who can move right away to get you the compensation you need.
Kapuza Lighty is proud to offer potential clients a free consultation, where they can ask questions about our experience and whether they have a valid legal case. You can schedule your consultation by calling 509-866-4166 or or you can contact us online.