When it comes to accidents on the sidewalks of New York, knowing your rights and legal limitations is extremely important. For example, most personal injury cases have a statute of limitations of three years – but there are some exceptions, which an experienced personal injury attorney will know and be able to help you much more effectively than if you try to figure everything out on your own.

Sidewalk Injuries in NYC Are No Joke!

An exception would be if you are injured due to a negligence or a defective sidewalk on a municipal or government-owned property. If you were to trip and fall over broken or uneven concrete or broken steps and get hurt in one of these locations, you may have as little as 90 days to file a claim.

A “statute of limitations” is defined by Legal-Dictionary as “a type of federal or state law that restricts the time within which legal proceedings may be brought.” There are statutes of limitations in every part of law, including both criminal and civil actions, and are in place to prevent fraudulent claims from being brought after too much time has passed and evidence has possibly been lost or witnesses no longer remember the event. Statutes of limitations are set by federal and state legislators and the courts are generally not able to be extended unless the statute specifically allows for that.

As a claimant, you are required to make any claim or file a lawsuit within the correct timeframe, and a New York City lawyer will know about all of the timing and limitations having to do with your particular case. Defendants will often use statutes of limitations as a reason to have the case thrown out or dismissed, saying you are out of the timeframe to have brought a lawsuit against them.


You may be wondering who can be held liable for your injuries. If you have tripped and fallen on unfinished concrete, broken steps, or debris and broken your ankle, leg, or sustained other injuries, there are a number of parties who could be liable. (There are also dangers from motor vehicles jumping curbs up onto sidewalks, things falling out of windows and from roofs, and even collapsing scaffolding!)

New York is very clear that the owners of any residential or commercial properties are required by law to keep the sidewalks in front of their homes and businesses “in a reasonably safe condition.” They have a responsibility to maintain their property – which includes the sidewalks – free from dangerous debris, clear and safe, and repair loose concrete or bricks in the walkway. This also includes the need for them to shovel snow and ice and even watch out for uneven, broken, or raised grating.

When it comes to public property in New York, if you were to slip and fall, the City itself may be liable, or specific municipalities or government agencies, which can make things much more complicated, since there are instances where these locations may have different rules and standards of responsibility for their sidewalk maintenance. If your case were to involve the City, it becomes more complex and a sidewalk injury or accident attorney will be able to guide you through the process.

In order to prove a specific party is liable for your sidewalk-related injury, your lawyer will need to prove that there was clear evidence of negligence – that the property owner knew the area was broken, in need of repair, or unsafe and failed to fix it. This is true even if the property owner did not cause the problem themselves. Claimants must also prove that the sidewalk itself was dangerous and was the reason for the injury.

Types of Sidewalk Accidents in NYC

Sidewalk accidents are more than just trip or slip and falls, though those are the most common ones in New York. Other types of dangers include those from cars jumping sidewalks and injuring people, air conditioning units or ice falling out of windows and from roofs, collapsing scaffolding, and potholes.

Damages and Injuries

In 2009, the New York Daily News reported that “taxpayers have doled out $321.2 million in legal settlements during the past five years for accidents caused by defective sidewalks.” At that time in 2009, the City Council claimed they did not have the $34 million it would have cost to fix all of the sidewalks which buckled under the almost 600,000 trees in them.

In August 2017, Mariana Fuentes, a 47-year-old mom of two parked her flower cart on a corner in Washington Heights near Broadway. Suddenly at 7:40am, the sidewalk collapsed and she dropped six feet into an abandoned underground vault! She lay inside the hole with a concrete slab on her leg until firefighters rescued her. She was in the hospital for more than two weeks. The Building Department ended up issuing several violations for the unmaintained sidewalk.

In December 2017, another sidewalk collapse occurred when a nail salon employee was getting ready to open up the East Village salon and the ground completely gave way. The woman fell in the sinkhole landing in the basement of the building. The Building Department issued “aggravated violations” to the owner of the commercial property for failing to safely maintain the building.

Also in December 2017,  six people were injured when a livery cab collided with two other vehicles before hopping a curb and crashing into a crowd of people in lower Manhattan. One vehicle hit another, which hit a bicyclist. The first car then went one block further and rear-ended another vehicle before going up onto the sidewalk, where two pedestrians were injured.

An NYC Sidewalk Attorney Can Help

If you or a loved one has been involved in an accident while walking on a New York City sidewalk, contact The Ashley Law Firm today for a free consultation with an experienced and compassionate sidewalk injury lawyer.

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