Slips, Falls, and Trips on Maine Sidewalks
Most of us walk on sidewalks without giving a second thought to their safety. Unfortunately, a minor crack in the pavement, a protruding root, or a shallow pothole can shatter that assumption in a second when you pummel into the pavement. Sidewalk injuries in Maine occur all too often and can lead to serious injury.
Sidewalk falls can be caused by a variety of factors. In Maine, some of the most common causes include:
- Snow or ice — Maine winters can leave a coating of snow and ice on sidewalks throughout the state. These slippery substances lead to large a large number of falls each year.
- Cracks — cracks or uneven elevations in pavement are quite common and usually develop gradually overtime. Cracks can be attributed to age, tree roots, weather conditions, and soil conditions. They can also result from improper lying of sidewalk or inferior materials used to construct or repair the sidewalk.
- Debris — overflowing trashcans, children’s wagons and toys, and tree limbs are just some of the many objects that find their way to sidewalks and can lead to falls.
- Potholes — when the concrete or asphalt separates, potholes develop. Much like cracks, potholes can be due to the roots of trees or shrubs, or the accumulation of pooled water, ice, or snow.
Each town in Maine will have different rules and regulations as to sidewalk maintenance. Most municipalities will hold home and business owner’s responsible for maintaining the sidewalks adjoining their property. Under Maine premises liability law, property owners must keep the sidewalks adjoining their property in reasonably safe condition. This means repairing cracks, potholes, and uneven pavement. It also means removing snow or ice and keeping sidewalks clear of debris.
Sidewalks that do not adjoin private property are generally the responsibility of the federal, state, or municipal authority that controls the sidewalk. Just like private owners, these government entities have a duty to keep their sidewalks safe for pedestrians. For instance, if you fell on an elevated piece of concrete on the sidewalk in front of your local post office, the federal government would likely be liable. However, exceptions exist for government authorities. Courts have held that because municipalities are responsible for millions of square miles of sidewalk, they will not be liable for falls unless the municipality had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition or defect.
Private property owners are also not instantly liable for every sidewalk fall. The court will look to whether the owner actually caused the defect or dangerous condition, or had notice of it. Further, the law provides owners with a reasonable time in which to cure a sidewalk defect. For instance, if a snow storm occurred at 12:00 a.m. and a pedestrian tripped and fell outside of a closed store at 6:00 a.m., that store might not be liable. If the store’s hours were 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., it could argue that it did not have sufficient time to remove the snow and did not expect pedestrians on the sidewalk as the store was closed. Of course, special circumstances could exist and the ultimate decision would be up to the judge or jury.
Prompt investigation of any sidewalk fall is key. If you have been injured on a sidewalk, seek the assistance of a knowledgeable slip and fall attorney in your area as soon as possible after the accident. Important evidence can be permanently lost if not gathered immediately after the fall.Contact Peter Thompson & Associates Now to Learn About How We Can Help You!
Peter Thompson & Associates provides unmatched excellence of legal services to accident victims across the state of Maine. Voted the best personal injury lawyer, Peter Thompson and his legal team zealously fight for each and every client to achieve a full recovery. Call us today at 1 800.804.2004 to schedule a consultation at a convenient office meeting location near where you live. Home and hospital visits are available.