In Illinois, city governments have a duty to maintain their sidewalks in a reasonably safe condition for the pedestrians who use them. Individuals who are injured in slip and falls (or trip and falls) on a poorly maintained city sidewalk can bring a lawsuit against the city for their injuries. However, slip and fall claims can be very challenging due to special immunities that exempt the city from liability under certain circumstances. It is always important to consult a personal injury attorney about your potential claim.
First and foremost, if you are injured on a city sidewalk, you must act quickly. The Statute of Limitations, or time period for filing a lawsuit, is shortened when the defendant is a governmental entity. Typically, in Illinois, your personal injury claim must be filed within one year from the date of the injury, or it will be barred, meaning that the law will prevent you from filing your claim. This does not mean, however, that you have one year to find an attorney. There is a great deal of investigation and preparation that should be done before filing a lawsuit, much of which takes time. You want to allow your attorney enough time for them to provide you with the best legal representation possible. The sooner you contact an attorney, the better.
What should you do if you are injured?
Step 1: Acknowledge that you are injured. Any time you suffer a fall, especially in public, you are guaranteed to injure at least one thing: your ego. If you have suffered an injury to more than just your self-esteem, however, do not brush yourself off and rush away. Acknowledge that you are injured, and, if possible, let someone know. Tell the property owner immediately, and…
Step 2: Call the police. Make sure that the police officer files an accident report. Let the officer know what caused you to fall and whether you are injured.
Step 3: Seek medical attention. Depending on the extent and severity of your injury, you may need to be taken to the hospital in an ambulance. If you do not feel you need an ambulance, you should still see a doctor right away. It is important that you do not delay in seeking medical treatment. Have a doctor examine your injuries as soon as possible, and follow the doctor’s orders. Failure to seek medical attention immediately can be harmful to your health and your personal injury claim. If you are injured, do not attempt to “tough it out.”
Step 4: Document. As soon as you are able to do so, document the condition of the scene. Often after an injury, photographing the location and what caused your injury is the last thing on your mind, and that’s okay. If you are unable to photograph the scene at the time of your injury, try to do so once you are able. Write down any details that you remember about the accident and gather information from any eyewitnesses who were present. If you are able to obtain contact information from witnesses, do so. Document what you can about the injury as soon after the injury as possible and be prepared to provide this information to your attorney.
There are many conditions that can cause someone to be injured on a sidewalk, including cracked or uneven sidewalk, hidden or unmarked potholes, inadequate lighting, or foreign objects left on the ground. Whether the City can be held liable for an injury suffered on a sidewalk will ultimately depend on the condition of the sidewalk, local law, the applicability of the certain immunities and defenses, and, in some instances, the behavior of the injured party. A knowledgeable and experienced personal injury attorney is your best resource when it comes to understanding your legal options.