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Dangerous Sidewalk Accidents

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Posted on December 3, 2020

Sidewalks in the City of San Diego

The City of San Diego currently has approximately 5,000 miles of sidewalk within its boundaries.  These sidewalks run along streets, near parks, and outside of buildings and business.

2015 City of San Diego Sidewalk Assessment

In 2015, the City of San Diego undertook an assessment of its nearly 5,000 miles of sidewalk.  The 2015 City of San Diego Sidewalk Assessment found approximately 80,000 areas of sidewalk that were in need of repair.  These areas needing repair were as follows:

  • Uplift/Faulting (0.5″ to 1.5″)- 40,039 locations
  • Uplift/Faulting (>1.5″ to 3″)- 13,982 locations
  • Uplift/Faulting (>3″)- 7,871 locations
  • Tree-Damaged Sidewalk- 7,585 locations
  • Subsided Sidewalk- 7,425 locations
  • Cracked Sidewalk- 1,480 locations

Additionally, the City of San Diego assessed curb ramps within its sidewalks and determined that nearlyhalf of curb ramps were non-compliant:

  • Compliant- 21,377 curb ramps
  • Non-Compliant- 20,966 curb ramps

What is a Dangerous Sidewalk?

A sidewalk can be dangerous based upon many factors, including any unsafe change in elevation (raised portions), cracks in the sidewalk, tree damage, non-compliant ramps, or visibility issues. At Haffner & Morgan we often work with experienced safety and human factors experts and expert arborists to determine whether a sidewalk is dangerous as a matter of law.

Who is Responsible For a Dangerous Sidewalk?

Generally the City of San Diego is responsible for maintenance of its sidewalks.  However, due to budget constraints, unfortunately many areas of sidewalks in the City of San Diego are in a dangerous condition and pose a substantial hazard to pedestrians exercising due care.

California Government Code section 835 provides as follows:

“Except as provided by statute, a public entity is liable for injury caused by a dangerous condition of its property if the plaintiff establishes that the property was in a dangerous condition at the time of the injury, that the injury was proximately caused by the dangerous condition, that the dangerous condition created a reasonably foreseeable risk of the kind of injury which was incurred, and that either:

(a) A negligent or wrongful act or omission of an employee of the public entity within the scope of his employment created the dangerous condition; or

(b) The public entity had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous condition under Section 835.2 a sufficient time prior to the injury to have taken measures to protect against the dangerous condition.”

In some cases, owners of property adjacent to a sidewalk may be responsible for any dangerous condition of sidewalk.  It is important to consult with an attorney who is familiar with the nuanced liability of dangerous sidewalk cases to ensure that all responsible parties are included in a claim and/or lawsuit.

Timeline to File a Claim

The California Tort Claims Act (Govt. Code §§ 810-996.6) requires that you must file within six months of the incident a claim for personal injury, damage to personal property, or wrongful death.  If you fail to file a claim meeting the requirements of the California Tort Claims Act with any and all responsible government entities within six months of the incident, you will likely be barred from pursuing a claim.

What Happens if Your Claim is Denied?

After filing a timely claim under the California Tort Claims Act, the government entity has 45 days after receiving your claim to take action. (See Govt. Code § 912.4).   If the agency takes no action within 45 days after you file the claim, the claim is deemed denied and you may file a lawsuit against the government entity.  (See Govt. Code § 912.4).

When Do You Have to File a Lawsuit After a Denied Claim?

If a government entity denies a claim, you must file a lawsuit within six months from the date of the postmark or personal delivery of the rejection.  In other situations, if a government entity does not timely respond to your claim, you may have two years from the date of the incident to file a lawsuit against the responsible government entity.

Government Code section 945.6 (a) provides as follows:

“(a) Except as provided in Sections 946.4 and 946.6 and subject to subdivision (b), any suit brought against a public entity on a cause of action for which a claim is required to be presented in accordance with Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 900) and Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 910) of Part 3 of this division must be commenced:

(1) If written notice is given in accordance with Section 913, not later than six months after the date such notice is personally delivered or deposited in the mail.

(2) If written notice is not given in accordance with Section 913, within two years from the accrual of the cause of action. If the period within which the public entity is required to act is extended pursuant to subdivision (b) of Section 912.4, the period of such extension is not part of the time limited for the commencement of the action under this paragraph.”

Given the often complicated and nuanced statute of limitation situations involved with government claims, it is extremely important to consult with an attorney with extensive experience handling government claims.

Dangerous Sidewalks in Other Cities

In addition to dangerous sidewalk claims against the City of San Diego, the attorneys at Haffner & Morgan, LLP have extensive experience handling dangerous sidewalk cases against many other cities and government entities in the greater San Diego area.

Contact Us Today

If you think you may have a viable case due to a dangerous condition of sidewalk, contact the attorneys at Haffner & Morgan, LLP today for a free consultation.