Recently, in East Lansing, Michigan, a pothole repair crew got stuck….in a pothole.
Although this may be humorous and ironic, it brings up a reminder for our readers. Each spring many new potholes are exposed and sidewalks crumbled by the thawing ice, snow, and salt from winter’s wear and tear. What’s worse, street signs, road signs, and traffic lights may also be in disrepair as a result of the cold and snow.
Much of these newly exposed hazards can be very dangerous to both your car and you. But whose job is it to fix them? And if you’re injured by a hazard, can you seek compensation?
In most circumstances, repairing the roadways and the traffic signs are the responsibility of your local municipality. Your tax dollars go toward paying for these repairs and most municipalities have crews specially trained to fix these problems when they arise. However, most municipalities are immune from liability and lawsuit unless and until someone gives the municipality prior written notice of the problem. In other words, municipalities are big, and they cannot be responsible to fix a problem until they know there is a problem to fix.
Sidewalks are a different story. In most circumstances, a sidewalk is the responsibility of the private property owner. Where that property owner is negligent in maintaining and keeping safe their sidewalk, and someone is injured as a result, they may seek compensation for their injuries. But what if a municipality owns the sidewalk, such as those in front of public buildings or offices? Much like potholes, the municipality must have notice of the problem in advance in order for you to seek compensation for injuries. It can be difficult to find out whether or not a municipality has been given written notice of the problem. This is why it is important to contact an attorney immediately. Municipalities, unlike private property owners, enjoy a much shorter window for being sued.
In New York, if a person is to fall on a private sidewalk that was negligently maintained, they have 3 years to file a lawsuit against the property owner. If that same person was to fall on a public sidewalk that was negligently maintained, they have only 90 days. It’s important to talk to a lawyer to help navigate the legal landscape and make sure your rights are being preserved.
At Dreyer Boyajian LaMarche Safranko Law, we represent victims of other’s negligence. If you have been injured, and would like to discuss your rights, please contact us.