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In their 40 years practicing personal injury law in California, the lawyers in our office have handled hundreds of cases involving pedestrians injured in accidents that were the result of the failure of city governments to properly maintain walkways. In Los Angeles, where 40 percent of the sidewalks were estimated to be damaged in the late 1990s-a proportion that’s most likely grown by now-and where citizens routinely file trip-and-fall claims against the city, officials have decided to use their $27 million budget to fix the sidewalks with the biggest risk of legal liability first, reported the Los Angeles Times.
In order to avoid liability for pedestrian accidents on property for which the city “is indisputably responsible” and to ensure access to public amenities, sidewalks on or near city properties like parks and libraries will be repaired first, though this year’s budget will not cover the cost to fix all of them.
As for fixing the buckled, crumbling sidewalks lining residents’ homes, the L.A. City Council is still debating who should pay for the repairs. Under California law, property owners are responsible for properly maintaining their sidewalks. In the 1970s, the city voluntarily repaired sidewalks that had been damaged by street trees, shifting the burden of maintaining them away from homeowners and onto the city. However, the city lacked the resources for such a program and soon left sidewalks to deteriorate. One proposal is to have the city share responsibility for sidewalk repair with property owners by splitting the cost.
While L.A.’s dilapidated sidewalks are not the only cause of pedestrian accidents and injuries, they’re certainly a contributing factor to the city’s poor pedestrian safety ranking. In a comparison of 13 cities with populations of over 250,000, the California Office of Traffic Safety ranked Los Angeles the 3rd worst for pedestrian accidents.
What do you think? Should homeowners split the bill for sidewalk repairs with the city?
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