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When is a sidewalk defect illegal?

California's cities are not famous for being accessible to pedestrians. Many of the roads in northern California have tight curves and no sidewalks, while the streets of San Francisco and Los Angeles cover so much territory that walking does not often feel like an option. But the rights of pedestrians to expect a clear path cannot be ignored.

  • Who is responsible for sidewalks and other passages?

Pathways from streets to homes or within institutions like universities are often privately owned and therefore the responsibility of the private owners to maintain them. They may be liable for damage or injury if a badly maintained walkway is open to the general public.

  • When is a public sidewalk a problem?

Some states and municipalities have rules on when and how to correct uneven or otherwise dangerous walkway surfaces. California does not have a specific definition of a hazardous sidewalk problem, but courts and regulators take into account the potential effect of a defect as a whole.

  • What do previous cases have to do with this issue?

Several lawsuits have forced courts to draw a line between hazardous and safe sidewalk problems. Although it does not matter as much in the Golden State, it appears that differentials in height greater than one inch on a walking surface may be considered a hazard.

  • What should the victim of an uneven sidewalk do next?

Once medical attention has been secured, it may be a good idea to consult an attorney about the possibility of financial damages. A lawyer may be able to help with a civil lawsuit against the maintainer of a bad walking surface.

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