Many people are injured in “Slip and Fall” or “Trip and Fall” accidents. These types of accidents can be categorized into two distinct groups: those accidents that occur on private property and those that happen on public properties such as streets, subways or other public areas. The first thing to remember is that sidewalks in New York belong to the City of New York. As such, if there is a defect or broken sidewalk, the City is responsible, not the homeowner. However, several years ago the City changed the law and made the property owner responsible if the sidewalk abutts a commercial property or a residential house of more than 3 families. In these cases the landowner is liable, not the City of New York. Defective sidewalks in front of private 1, 2, or 3 family houses that are exclusively residential and owner occupied are the responsibility of the City of New York. There is another exception in which the owner is responsible and that is if the defect is on an area of “special use.” The most common type of special use is a “driveway” to a house. Be aware that there are also other types of “special use” exceptions.
If a defect in a sidewalk or crosswalk has caused you to slip or trip and thereby caused injury, you then may have a claim against the City of New York or against the homeowner. In order for your claim against the City to survive, you must file a “Notice of Claim” against the City of New York within 90 days of the accident. Note: 90 days does not mean 3 months. That could be 91 or 92 days. 90 days means exactly that: 90 days. If you miss the 90 days for filing a Notice of Claim, you may make an application in court for late filing of Notice of Claim. Permission for late filing is generally not given except if you can show that the City had notice anyway and was not prejudiced and that you have a good reason for filing late. The notice of Claim must be specific about the facts of the accident, date and location. To state “…the corner of Avenue J and East 12th Street, Brooklyn, NY” is not a valid notice as there are 4 corners on Avenue J and East 12th Street. You must designate the particular corner of Avenue J and East 12th Street, Brooklyn, NY, etc. Once a Notice of Claim is filed, the City will conduct a “50h” hearing to ascertain the particulars of the claim. The 50h hearing refers to Section 50h of the General Municipal Law of New York.
After the 50h hearing is conducted, you must start your lawsuit against the City. The lawsuit must be started within 1 year and 90 days from the date of the accident. If you miss the 1 year and 90 days to commence the lawsuit your case is over. You cannot serve late except for “Tolling Provisions” such as for Infants (under 18 years of age) and incompetents, etc.
In cases of injury on defective sidewalks involving the City, you must also show either that the City created the defective condition or that it had written Notice of the defective condition for at least 15 days and didn’t correct the condition. The record or maps of defective conditions on New York City sidewalks can be obtained from the Big Apple Pothole Corporation, which files maps with the New York Department of Transportation of defects on the New York City sidewalks and crosswalks.
As you can see from this article, the rules and procedures for filing claims against the City of New York for slip and fall injuries are complicated and technical. Therefore, you are advised to call our office and we will try to assist you in any way we can.
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Brooklyn, NY 11230