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How improper sidewalk maintenance can leave people injured

Sidewalks are important municipal features that allow for the safe travel of pedestrians in busy areas. Sidewalks allow people to stay out of the street where there are motor vehicles and provide a buffer between businesses and potentially dangerous traffic.

New York is home to many miles of sidewalk, and maintaining that sidewalk can prove quite difficult, which is why the responsibility for sidewalk maintenance typically lies with the person who owns the property that abuts the portion of sidewalk or, in some cases, the person holding a lease on that property.

Sidewalk maintenance involves not just the removal of ice and snow as it accumulates during the winter months but also ensuring that the sidewalk is even, straight and easy to navigate. When a property owner or renter fails to adequately maintain their portion of sidewalk, other people can wind up hurt.

Different maintenance issues pose different injury risks

In the winter months, the failure to quickly and completely remove accumulated snow and ice from sidewalks can increase the likelihood of a pedestrian slipping on the ice and falling. Although the injuries may have coverage under the property's premises liability insurance policy, that money may be cold comfort to someone who suffers a head injury or broken bone because someone else couldn't bother to shovel or spread salt.

The dangers associated with sidewalks don't end when the weather turns warm. The process of freezing and thawing can result in what is known as frost heave, where the ground underneath a portion of pavement shifts, lifts or sinks. The results could be a major gap between one section of sidewalk and the next or a very uneven portion of pavement.

In some cases, frost heave, the incursion of roots or age can lead to sections of sidewalk pavement crumbling. Uneven or broken sidewalk can pose a risk to pedestrians who don't look down at their feet as they walk. That same sidewalk could also present serious injury risks for those on bicycles and people dependent on mobility devices, such as wheelchairs or crutches, as well as blind pedestrians.

Reporting an injury and taking photos can help you recover from a sidewalk accident

Many people will try to quickly get up and brush themselves off after they experience a slip or similar accident on a New York sidewalk. However, documenting what caused your fall can help you in the future if you wind up having more serious injuries than you initially suspect.

A picture on your cellphone of the accumulated ice and snow or the broken or uneven section of sidewalk that caused your injury can help you prove later on that a failure of maintenance was the primary contributing factor to the accident and the injuries you later suffered. In some cases, you may also want to enter the building to advise the owner or tenant of the injury you suffered so that any later claims you make will not come as a surprise.

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