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.)
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.)
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.