Prevent Pedestrian Accidents for the Disabled to Keep Sidewalks Free and Equal

Pedestrian Accident Lawyer, Dangerous Roadways

 

In California especially, we protect the rights of the disabled so that they, too, are free and equal.  As pedestrian accident lawyers in San Francisco and Paso Robles, California, we advocate for all pedestrian rights.  Recently, principal and founder Shaana Rahman published the following in Plaintiff Magazine:

The Unruh Act broadly provides that all persons within California are “free and equal” and “are entitled to the full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services in all business establishments of every kind whatsoever.” (Civ. Code, § 51(b).) The California Disabled Persons Act (DPA) additionally provides that individuals with disabilities “shall be entitled to full and equal access, as other members of the general public,” to places to which the general public is invited. (Civ. Code, § 54.1(a)(1).)  Both Acts broadly prohibit discrimination without qualification and require equal treatment in all public accommodations. (Civ. Code, §§ 51 & 54.)

http://www.plaintiffmagazine.com/recent-issues/item/sidewalks

Access to the disabled is non-discriminatory.  Wheelchair access, persons with vision impairments, those with crutches or walking assistive devices, service animals…   The legislation from the Supreme Court, the DPA, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Unruh Act all lead to the same goal: “the commendable goal of total integration of handicapped persons into the mainstream of society.” (In re Marriage of Carney (1979) 24 Cal.3d 725, 738, 740.)  Preventing pedestrian accidents for the disabled becomes a topic of free and equal access provided that doing so would not “fundamentally alter” the nature of the accommodation per the ADA.

Full and equal access includes the sidewalk.  Uneven sidewalks can be an inconvenience to a young, healthy parent pushing a jogging stroller, but are impermissible to many wheelchairs.  In San Francisco and Paso Robles, the streets and sidewalks are old due to the age of the cities, resulting in gaps, cracks, and deviations in the sidewalks greater than 1”, which can be hazardous to anyone and potentially result in a pedestrian accident.  If you see a dangerous sidewalk, report it.  If you are a property owner, it may be under your duty of care to repair it.  Remember, the general public is entitled to equal access and many cities have ordinances placing the burden of repair for the sidewalk on the property owner.  Courts have already been looking to adjacent property owners to warn and protect the public to prevent pedestrian accidents.

Courts have held a landowner who exercises possession or control over an adjacent sidewalk has a duty to warn or protect pedestrians and others who foreseeably may be in the area from dangerous conditions on the sidewalk.  (See, Alpert v. Villa Romano Homeowners Ass’n (2000) 81 Cal.App.4th 1320, 1335-1337.) In Alpert v. Villa Romano Homeowners Assoc. (2000) 81 Cal.App.4th 1320, the court held that a landowner owed a duty of care to pedestrians using a sidewalk on adjoining property, where the defendant knew the sidewalk was hazardous due to roots from trees located on the defendant’s property. In doing so, the court analyzed the impact of Civil Code 1714(a), Streets and Highways Code 5610, and other authorities in determining liability. In essence, Section 5610 of the Streets and Highways Code established the rule that the owner of the property adjoining the sidewalk has a duty to maintain it. (Ibid.)

http://www.plaintiffmagazine.com/recent-issues/item/sidewalks

Now is a great time to go outside before the rain comes and take a look at the sidewalks around you.  Are they reasonably free of defects to avoid pedestrian accidents?  Do they allow free and equal access to disabled pedestrians?  Are they on or adjacent to yours property?  If you have concerns about liability should a pedestrian accident occur, give us a call.  The lawyers at Rahman Law PC have handled many pedestrian accident cases and can help you understand the ordinances in your area.

Dangerous Sidewalks: Reduce Pedestrian Accidents by Reporting Them!

Pedestrian Accident Lawyer Dangerous Sidewalks

San Francisco was founded in 1776 and El Paso de Robles first established a post office in 1867, so both of the cities we operate offices in have a history to them and that brings with it old streets and often neglected, dangerous sidewalks (even neglected, dangerous roadways) in areas.  In fact, looking for examples of images to use as broken sidewalks through the Internet made us realize how much easier it would be to go outside and snap a few photos to get better examples.  In San Francisco, VisionZero is bringing attention to the “3 Es” of pedestrian safety: engineering, enforcement, and education.  Engineering will of course take time and we must all keep that in mind, but education and enforcement are things we can all take part of each and every day to reduce pedestrian accidents.

We are all pedestrians each and every day, even if we only walk to and from our cars.  Some people also ride bicycles or walk longer distances for health or to commute via public transportation.  So taking notice of a dangerous sidewalk or roadway and reporting it can begin a process to prevent a future accident for anyone, even yourself if it’s on a route you travel frequently.  Talking with a pedestrian accident lawyer is nearly always after an injury has occurred.

 

In Paso Robles, there is an online Action Request Form to use for any road-related repair request.  The City asks this be used from everything from pot-hole fills to sidewalk repairs: http://www.prcity.com/government/departments/publicworks/action-general.asp

 

In San Francisco there is a mobile SF311 app to use for reporting road-related repairs as well as an online form for potholes and street/road defects.  San Francisco uses separate forms for each item.  In San Francisco, there is also a lot of information about getting your adjacent property sidewalk repaired here: http://sfpublicworks.org/sirp.

 

However, not all sidewalks belong to the City or County government.  As pedestrian accident lawyers, we often must look at all addresses surrounding an accident or injury.  California Streets and Highway Code section 5610 clearly states that a property owner specifically has a duty to maintain any sidewalk that fronts his or her property in a safe manner.  Many cities have also adopted municipal ordinances consistent with California Streets and Highway Code section 5610, placing the burden of repair of sidewalks on the property owner. (E.g., Berk. Mun. Ord. § 16.04.010; San Luis Obispo Municipal Code § 12.16.020; Gonzales v. City of San Jose (2004) 125 Cal.App.4th 1127, 1137 [local ordinance expressly made landowners liable to members of public injured from unsafe conditions on abutting sidewalks].)  In these situations, reporting the dangerous sidewalk is still the thoughtful thing to do.  We have seen instances where the public entity has sent multiple notices to the property owner.  There are also zoning and coding departments that you may call or write to if you know the address of the property owner and wish to escalate the matter to ensure notices are sent.

 

If you are beginning to review the sidewalks you encounter on a daily basis in your mind, think about the difference in elevation between the defects, breaks, or cracks.  When reviewing cases as pedestrian accident attorneys, we’ve seen cases where differences of less than one inch have been considered “trivial” by the judge.  Knowing that both San Francisco and Paso Robles are both kept very busy with road maintenance and repairs, you may find reporting defects in the sidewalk of less than a one-inch rise in elevation get placed at the bottom of the repair list.  Your repair request may also be in a less-walked area and therefore a lower priority.  In San Francisco, the Sidewalk Inspection and Repair Program (SIRP) inspects and repairs sidewalks throughout the City on a 25 year cycle prioritizing by a number of factors including pedestrian usage.  Small defects can still be dangerous if unmarked and cause additional concerns for disabled pedestrians which we will address later, but if you look at the 12” defects in the sidewalks in Los Angeles, you’ll understand why some repairs might be first or last on the list.

 

Education and enforcement are two steps on the path to better pedestrian safety and the goal of eliminating traffic deaths within 10 years.  Remember you play a big part in this!