Never-ending winter can make for some icy New York City sidewalks

This winter has been particularly miserable in New York, especially since multiple run-ins with the polar vortex have left many with the impression that there is no end in sight. Indeed, at almost every turn Mother Nature has tested the resolve of New York residents with historic low temps and near record snowfall totals. This will surely be a winter that most New Yorkers will not soon forget.

One unfortunate consequence of such severe winters is the ever-present danger of icy and slippery sidewalks. Even worse, harsh winter temperatures can often cause New York sidewalks to buckle - leaving behind large cracks or possible holes in the process. With conditions such as this, it is no wonder why New York sidewalk falls are a real concern for the countless pedestrians walking the sidewalks of the Big Apple.

Potential liability following a New York sidewalk slip-and-fall accident

Since sidewalk falls can lead to severe injuries, it is vital for victims of these accidents to be aware of whom can be held liable for injuries attributed to icy or poorly maintained sidewalks. For instance, New York case law has determined that a property owner may be liable for pedestrian injuries on the sidewalks abutting his or her property in three distinct circumstances:

  • When the property owner has created a dangerous condition on the sidewalk
  • When the property owner has caused a dangerous condition to develop due to a "special use" of the sidewalk
  • When a statute or ordinance creates a duty to maintain the sidewalk in a certain condition

In New York City, the third option listed above is often the most important theory of liability for sidewalk fall victims. Specifically, since 2003, New York City's Administrative Code has included a provision that compels property owners - such as businesses - to maintain abutting sidewalks in a "reasonably safe condition." In fact, this rule dictates that a property owner may be liable for any injuries caused by the owner's failure to repair defective sidewalks or the "negligent failure to remove snow, ice, dirt or other material from the sidewalk."

Prior to this law change, the City was typically liable for sidewalk accidents - meaning this 2003 amendment essentially shifted potential liability for sidewalk injuries from the City to abutting property owners. However, it should be noted that this particular NYC provision does not apply to owner-occupied one-, two- or three-family residential homes. Although, owners of these properties may still face liability for sidewalk accidents if their negligent actions created the dangerous condition in the first place.

Sadly, the laws in New York regarding slip-and-fall sidewalk accidents can be quite complicated, which is why is it often advisable to seek the counsel of an experienced sidewalk fall attorney if you have sustained a sidewalk-related injury. A skilled attorney can review the circumstances of your accident and help determine potential liability.