A slip or trip and fall accident can cause serious injuries, including broken bones and concussions. If you get injured after falling on an uneven sidewalk or street, you may be able to bring a claim for financial compensation for your injuries and related bills. The party that is liable, or financially responsible, for your fall will depend on who owns the road and whether that party was negligent. Learn more about your rights as a fall victim in Dallas, Texas.
Who Is Liable for a Premises Liability Accident?
Premises liability is the area of law that holds the owner or controller of a property responsible for injuries that occur on that property. A property owner will only be liable for an injury, however, if the owner was negligent in preventing the injury. Negligence is the failure to use a normal amount of care or prudence for a situation. A property owner in Texas is negligent if he or she fails to keep a property reasonably safe for visitors. Property owners have three basic duties of care:
- Inspect land, buildings, roads and sidewalks for trip and fall hazards.
- Repair any discovered or already observed injury hazards.
- Warn visitors of defects that exist on the property that might not be obvious.
A property owner may not have all of these duties if the visitor is a licensee – someone who enters the property for their own purposes – or a trespasser. However, invitees, or guests invited to the property, are owed the highest duties of care. If a property owner does not meet his or her duty of care, the owner could be held liable for a resultant accident. In other words, liability will go to a property owner if another owner would have prevented the fall accident in similar circumstances.
Private vs. Public Property
Determining liability after you fall on an uneven sidewalk or street requires an investigation into who owns or controls the property. If you fell on someone’s private property, such as a private driveway or road, the individual owner of the property could bear responsibility for your accident. In most cases, a homeowners insurance company will pay for injuries to others that arise because of property defects.
If you fell on a publicly owned sidewalk or street, however, the government entity that owns the land may be liable. If you fell on a public sidewalk in downtown Dallas, for example, the City of Dallas may have to pay for your accident and injuries. Municipalities have the same responsibilities as private property owners to maintain safe premises. If there is evidence that the government entity in charge of maintaining safe roads and sidewalks knew or should have known about a hazard but failed to remedy it, the municipality is liable for your injuries.
How Can You Prove Government Negligence?
If you need to bring a trip and fall accident lawsuit against a city, county or another government agency in Texas, it is important to understand what is required of you as the filing party, or plaintiff. The burden of proof rests with your side of the case. This means it is your responsibility to prove that the defendant is liable, not the defendant’s responsibility to prove that he or she is not liable. The burden of proof in a premises liability lawsuit is a preponderance of the evidence. This is enough clear and convincing evidence to prove that the defendant more likely caused your accident than not (with at least 50 percent certainty).
It is up to you or your premises liability lawyer to establish that the government that owned the sidewalk or street where you fell should have done more to prevent the accident, such as sending a maintenance crew to repair an uneven curb or marking the area off with hazard tape. This may require evidence such as photographs and surveillance footage, previous complaints submitted to the city for the uneven road, eyewitness statements, and expert testimony. An experienced attorney can help you collect evidence to support your claim against the government for your fall accident.