Sidewalk Slip and Falls -- Who's Liable?

by Barry P. Goldberg, A Professional Law Corporation

It may be suprising to hear, but many San Fernando slip and fall or trip and fall cases happen on sidewalks. Most of these claims are brought against municipalities and generally turn on whether the property owner or possessor acted with reasonable care so that slipping or tripping was not likely to occur. When the property owner is a municipality, such as the city or County, the situation is different from a homeowner or commercial property owner.

Negligence in a Sidewalk Fall Case

In order to show that the municipality was negligent, or careless, in maintaining the sidewalk where you injured yourself, your slip and fall lawyer must show: [1] The sidewalk was in an unreasonably unsafe condition; [2] The property owner knew or should have known about the conditions that caused the injury (that the sidewalk was reasonably unsafe); [3] The property owner breached the standard of care by failing to fix the condition within a reasonable time; and finally [4] The breach is what caused your injury.

Who is Liable for a Slip/Trip and Fall on a Public Sidewalk?

Liability for your slip and fall injury depends on state laws. A municipality has a duty to pedestrians to keep the sidewalks safe for their intended use. However, many jurisdictions require that property owners keep the sidewalks in front of their property safe. Therefore, liability may be on the municipality, the property owner, or both. Your attorney will be able to address your specific case with you in further detail.

Other Considerations in a California Slip and Fall

Trivial Defect Doctrine

If the defect was so small, the court can hold that it was reasonable for the municipality or property owner to allow the defect to go unrepaired.


Often, people trip in places where the sidewalk has become raised or otherwise uneven. This usually occurs from the movement of tree roots. When the tree root is at fault, it is necessary to determine the ownership of the tree.

How Much the Sidewalk was Raised

If the fall was the result of a raised section or slab, the distance raised is very important. If the distance raised is less than one inch, this is often considered to be a trivial defect. If more, you may have a strong case.

Shoes Worn

After a slip and fall, it is important to save your shoes and not wear them again. If the shoes are very worn or have very high heels, the defense may try to use this to show that the fall was your own fault. You will need to work with your lawyer to show otherwise.


There is a lowered standard of care and responsibility to look at where you are stepping if there is a recognized distraction nearby. For example, store windows are known to distract people. Did you trip and fall near a recognized distraction?

Statute of Limitations

California has a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury cases (including sidewalk falls) against private property owners. However, for cases involving a public entity (city, county, state, federal, or a branch thereof), you must file an administrative claim with the entity or agency within six months from the date of the injury. This is one more area where retaining an attorney will be of value to you.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Barry P. Goldberg, A Professional Law Corporation | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Barry P. Goldberg, A Professional Law Corporation

Barry P. Goldberg, A Professional Law Corporation on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.