Sidewalks can be somewhat hazardous for pedestrians. This is so in every city or town, and Albuquerque is no exception.
Pedestrians are often injured as result of defective or dangerous sidewalks. These dangers can result from negligent maintenance, failure to repair defects, failure to keep the sidewalk free of debris, and failure to keep the sidewalk clear of ice and snow to name just a few.
Owner/Occupant is Responsible for Sidewalk
The question that immediately arises is who is responsible for keeping the sidewalks safe. In Albuquerque, by city ordinance, that responsibility falls upon the property owner or occupant. This includes both private and commercial property.
The City Ordinance in question (§6-5-5-18) actually addresses more than just sidewalks. It also addresses “drive pad and curb ramps.” Regarding the responsibility for the safety of the sidewalk, the ordinance reads in relevant part:
(A) All sidewalks, drive pads and curb ramps shall be kept clean from rocks and other obstructions, including ice and snow, and in a state of good repair by the owner, occupants, or agents in charge of the abutting property. Sidewalks, drive pads and curb ramps in good repair shall be free of cracks, floats, obstructions, depressions and/or any and all other defects and shall have a uniform longitudinal and transverse gradient.
There are limited exceptions for sidewalks and wheel chair ramps on the rear lot line of property, but otherwise the property owner or occupant is responsible for keeping the sidewalk in a safe condition.
Safe Condition Set Forth in Ordinance
The ordinance sets forth most of the many ways a sidewalk could be dangerous. It is also noteworthy that these conditions are the predominant cause of all slip and fall accidents on sidewalks.
Cracks, depressions, rises, and otherwise uneven sidewalks can cause quite serious accidents and personal injuries. On rare occasions, a fall can result in the wrongful death of the pedestrian. The most serious injuries or wrongful death typically would be associated with head injuries resulting in traumatic brain injury.
Course of Action in Sidewalk Accident
There are a number of important steps to take in a slip and fall accident. Perhaps the most important is to document the location and the condition of the sidewalk.
The location may seem obvious, but with city sidewalks, it is not always that easy to distinguish one sidewalk from another or one particular spot on the sidewalk from another. It is very important to document this.
You should also document the condition of the sidewalk. This means taking pictures from as many angles as possible. It also means taking pictures related to lighting and other surrounding conditions that contributed to the dangerous condition of the sidewalk.
Of course, this is easier said than done if you are badly injured and you have nobody around to assist with these tasks. In this case, it is important to contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible. The attorney will be able to complete these tasks if you are unable to.
Tort Claims Notice
Although the ordinance places responsibility on the owner/occupant of the abutting property, it is always best to err on the side of caution and send a Tort Claims Notice to the City of Albuquerque. This must be done within 90 days of the accident in case of personal injury, and within 6 months in case of wrongful death.
Why take this precaution? Because it may not be clear in many situations who is responsible. This might come up if the city actually conducted negligent repairs. It might also come up if the property owner had put the city on notice of dangerous conditions outside the scope of the owner/occupants responsibility. A dispute as to responsibility may come up regarding the definition of “abutting property.” There might also be issues of control and authority to make repairs.
These are just a few so it is very important to put the city on notice within the 90-day deadline. The city may have no responsibility, it might have full responsibility or it may have partial responsibility. Whatever the case, the Tort Claims Notice will protect your rights to recovery from all possible responsible parties.
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