New York law requires homeowners, building owners, and retail businesses to maintain sidewalks that abut their property in a reasonably safe condition. There is also a notice requirement regarding a hazardous or dangerous condition whereby if the owner had actual notice of the icy condition or ‘constructive notice,’ then they may be liable for any resulting injuries to pedestrians. Constructive notice refers to a condition that lasted for a sufficient period that the owner should have been aware of.
Although this would seemingly immunize New York City from liability under these circumstances, the city still remains liable for an icy sidewalk if it abutted a municipal building or public walkway. City agencies could include Metro North, the Port Authority, the New York City Housing Authority, the Sanitation Department, and others who are responsible for maintaining walkways.
The City of New York is also responsible for clearing sidewalks that are adjacent to 1, 2 or 3 family owner occupied homes as well as if the slippery condition occurred on city owned properties. Of course, the city is entitled to the same notice requirements, actual or constructive, regarding the icy sidewalk if the condition was unreasonably hazardous. It also must have had a reasonable time to remedy the slippery condition.
New York is a pure comparative fault state. You can be partially at fault for causing your own injuries and still recover compensation so long as you can prove that another party, such as New York City or one of its city agencies, was also negligent. Your damages will be reduced by your percentage of comparative fault. For instance, if your damages are $100,000 and you were 45% at fault, you would recover only $55,000.
In a slip and fall case against the city, the defense attorneys will question you closely about your conduct, clothes you were wearing and the open and obvious nature of the hazard. You may be asked what kinds of shoes you wearing, if you were in a hurry or late to an appointment, talking on a cell phone or otherwise inattentive. You do have a duty to exercise reasonable care for your own safety, which the city will assert includes wearing non-skid shoes following a snowfall or icy weather, walking cautiously and being aware that you are walking in snow where other less dangerous routes were possibly accessible.
Following an accident, you will likely be contacted by a city attorney or investigator. Do not give any recorded or written statements without first consulting or retaining an experienced premises liability attorney.
If the city is a defendant, there are strict filing deadlines that if missed, can result in dismissal of your claim. You only have 90 days following your accident on city owned property or that for which the city was responsible to notify the proper city department or agency. If your claim is rejected or you are unable to resolve it, you have one year from the date of the accident to file your claim in court.
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