Sidewalk Slip and Fall: Who is Liable?

Slip and fall incidents that occur on sidewalks often lead to severe injuries, including fractured bones, lacerations, and serious contusions. But who will be held liable if a slip and fall accident occurs on a sidewalk? In some cases, these incidents may be nobody’s fault, but the reality is that there are times when property owners fail to keep these locations safe and free from hazards.

Determining liability for a sidewalk slip and fall in Tennessee

Was the Sidewalk in Tennessee Unreasonably Safe?

We will be the first to point out that not every slip and fall accident that occurs on a sidewalk will necessarily be the fault of a property owner. There are certainly times when individuals fall, and there is nobody to blame. However, there are times when property owners allow a sidewalk to become unreasonably safe.

In order for a property owner to be held liable for a sidewalk slip and fall, it must be shown that they did indeed have operational control over the sidewalk (duty of care to those using the sidewalk), that there was a hazard or unsafe condition present, and that the property owner failed to take steps necessary to remedy the situation.

All of this can be difficult to prove, beginning with determining who actually had control over the sidewalk in question.

Who had Operational Control of the Sidewalk?

One of the main issues when it comes to sidewalk slip and fall liability is determining who was responsible for sidewalk inspection and maintenance. This can be confusing, particularly for sidewalks that are around businesses, homes, apartment complexes, and government offices. There will have to be some investigation into the incident to determine who could be held responsible. Responsibility could call to business owners, homeowners, tenants, municipal authorities, and more.

It all depends on what the lease or deed says for that property. For example, it is not uncommon for homeowners to have no operational control of the sidewalks around their houses. In some cases, a homeowners association or a municipality will be in charge of the sidewalks.

For sidewalks near businesses, it is not uncommon for the owners of the businesses at the location to have no control over the sidewalks or parking lot around the business. It could be the case that a municipality, a separate business, or a property owner is in charge of these areas.

Did the Property Owner Know the Sidewalk was Unsafe?

After determining who is responsible for the upkeep of a sidewalk where an injury occurs, an injury victim and their attorney will have to determine whether or not the property owner or operator knew about the unsafe condition at the sidewalk.

For example, let us suppose it is wintertime in Tennessee. Our winters can be brutal, and property owners are well aware that freezing conditions can lead to hazardous slip and fall incidents. If there is an icy situation on a sidewalk just outside of a regularly used bank, and if this icy area leads to a slip and fall injury that causes a person to break their hip, will that individual be able to recover compensation?

If a property owner knew about the icy condition, it is very likely that they could be held responsible. However, what about situations where an ice storm struck unexpectedly and the property owner had not had time to inspect the area to solve any potential slip and fall issues? In these situations, there may have been no way for the property owner to know about the problem in time to remedy the issue before the injury occurred.

When a sidewalk slip and fall injury occurs, it is important to work with a trusted Nashville premises liability lawyer who can examine the incident. An attorney can investigate what happened, obtain various evidence to prove liability, and work to establish that the property owner knew about the hazard and failed to fix it.