Dangerous Public Sidewalks: In Pennsylvania, Property Owners are Often Legally Responsible for More Than Just Their Own Private Property.
Even if you have lived in Pennsylvania your whole life, you might not know that a private property owner is often legally responsible for more than just his own property. In many cases, he is also primarily responsible for making sure that the public sidewalk next to his property is safe. This means that he must make sure that any problems with the pavement, including holes and uneven slabs, are fixed. Ice and snow must be removed and the sidewalk should be salted.
Every year, thousands of people are needlessly injured on unsafe public sidewalks. Each year, The Rostocki Law Firm answers countless calls from people in our community who have fallen and been hurt because the sidewalk was left in a dangerous condition. The injuries are often very serious: broken noses, cracked eye orbitals, broken arms and wrists, shattered hips, concussions, and even death are common injuries sustained in fall downs on hard pavement. The elderly and the physically disabled are especially at risk.
Usually, the owner of the property abutting the dangerous sidewalk isn’t an “evil” character, acting out of spite for the elderly and others using the sidewalk next to his property. Sometimes, the owner doesn’t even know that it is his responsibility to make sure the sidewalk is safe. Ignorance of the law, however, is no excuse: if someone is injured on a public sidewalk abutting private property, liability will primarily fall on the owner of that property, whether he knows about the law or not.
And, logically, it’s a good law: our local governments would never be able to monitor the thousands and thousands of miles of sidewalks throughout Pennsylvania without help. That’s why the law requires every property owner to report problems with the sidewalk abutting his property. When dangerous conditions are reported, the city or local government can then send someone to repair the unsafe conditions, remove the danger, and the system works very well.
When the property owner chooses to ignore the dangerous conditions in the sidewalk, the system breaks down. We have seen too many people needlessly hurt on dangerous sidewalks simply because the property owner didn’t care enough to pick up the phone and report the danger to the city, or shovel and salt the sidewalk in winter.
Look out your front window right now. Is your sidewalk torn up? Are the sidewalk plates uneven, or are there holes or other tripping hazards in the concrete? Is there snow and ice covering the sidewalk? If the answer is “yes,” then do something about it. Save your neighbors a trip to the emergency room. If the physical sidewalk is torn up, call your city’s Department of Streets to come out and fix it. Here in Philadelphia, you can call 215-686-8686. If the issue is snow and ice, remove it and make sure you put some salt down to get rid of any persistent ice.
The point of the law is not to annoy property owners; it is to protect the community. If you own property, remember that it is your responsibility to take care of the public sidewalk abutting your property. Your safety, and the safety of your neighbors, depends on it.
IF YOU HAVE BEEN INJURED ON UNSAFE PROPERTY, CONTACT RLF NOW.