Q: I was out jogging on city sidewalks and rammed my foot into a raised (square) section of concrete which caused me to hurtle forward and land sprawled out on the pavement, inuring myself in the process – the worst of it being a broken thumb which required medical assistance not to mention a number of deep scrapes and cuts. Is there any legal recourse in a situation such as this in terms of poor maintenance of sidewalks or does a city bear no responsibility for lack of upkeep of public areas?
A: This is a great question and a situation that we see on a routine basis. When someone is injured on a public sidewalk, the City, landowner (even an adjacent landowner) and/or construction company that worked on the portion of the sidewalk in question may be liable for injuries and damages. Even before one analyzes the merits of such an accident claim, certain time deadlines must be observed.
Indeed, when the City is a potential responsible party, a statute known as the Indiana Tort Claims Act (“ITCA”) is invoked. Under the ITCA, notice (that complies with the specific requirements of the ITCA) must be provided to the proper authorities within as little as 180 days of the accident. If this notice requirement is not sufficed, then any claim against the City or other Governmental entity or agency could be forever time-barred! Most people are not aware of this time deadline or notice requirement.
In addition to the notice requirement, the general two year statute of limitations would apply to the City and any other defendant, such as, a private landowner. So the claims would either need to be settled with a check in hand or a lawsuit filed within 2 years of accident.
As to whether the City, a private landowner and/or is legally responsible, this is a complex question and involves immunity issues under the ITCA, premise liability law in Indiana as to private landowners, evidence as to notice of the defect and the foreseeability of harm.
Whether it is fair or not, such a routine situation becomes a very complex legal question when attempting to preserve your claims, comply with deadlines and then assess who may be legally responsible for the injuries and damages. Therefore, if you have been injured and wish to preserve your claims you should contact an experienced personal injury lawyer for a consultation.
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