Are Slip and Falls on Public Sidewalks the City’s Responsibility?


In California, sidewalks are ubiquitous. They offer a secure and accessible space for pedestrians and other vulnerable road users to navigate the roadway without risking their safety or the safety of others. With the beautiful weather in the Golden State, many individuals opt to travel on foot as it allows them to stay active while reducing their carbon footprint. Pedestrians often rely on sidewalks as a safe means of transportation. Unfortunately, not all sidewalks are properly maintained, resulting in catastrophic accidents that lead to devastating injuries with long-lasting effects. In such cases, injured parties typically wonder whether they can take legal action against the city for their damages. Please keep reading to learn whether slips and falls on public sidewalks are the city’s responsibility and how our skilled Santa Clara County Sidewalk Accident Attorneys can help you consider your legal options.

Who’s liable for a slip and fall on a public sidewalk in California?

When someone is injured in a sidewalk accident, they are often unsure about who is liable. However, it’s crucial to identify who bears the responsibility for the accident, as you will be charged with fulfilling the burden of proof before you can collect any compensation for your economic and non-economic damages. In California, property owners have a legal obligation to maintain a safe environment for their guests by remedying any unsafe property conditions or providing adequate warnings about potentially dangerous scenarios to prevent accidents and injuries. If the appropriate parties fail to uphold their legal obligation toward their guest, they can be held liable for any injuries that occur as a direct result of their negligence.

Depending on the location of the sidewalk, the duty to safely maintain it is left to either the local municipality or the property owner. Typically, the owner of the sidewalk is the owner of the adjacent property. If a business privately owns a sidewalk, that party is responsible for regularly maintaining it to ensure it is in good condition for pedestrians. However, in some cases, a sidewalk can be considered municipal property. When the sidewalk adjoins a public road, the government entity will be responsible for maintaining the sidewalk. Therefore, if the city fails to maintain a safe public sidewalk, it can be liable for a slip-and-fall accident.

How long do I have to pursue legal action?

If your injury occurred on municipal property, you will be required to file a Notice of Claim. The state imposes a strict 90-day notice period for slip and fall victims to file their claim against another party. The statute of limitations for filing a claim against a municipality is much shorter, as victims typically have two years from the date of the accident to file a claim. The fixed legal deadline is much stricter when taking legal action against a government entity because they require advanced notice before the commencement of a lawsuit to inform the municipality they may be subject to a claim for damages. Essentially, it gives them time to investigate the claim to determine its merit. If you fail to file a Notice of Claim within the correct time frame, it will result in the absolute bar of recovery.

If you’ve been injured in a slip-and-fall accident on a public sidewalk, contact a reliable attorney from the Law Office of Brian J. O’Grady, who can help you hold responsible parties accountable for their negligence. We are prepared to help you navigate your legal options and fight to help you obtain the just compensation you deserve.