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What Are Your Rights If You Are Injured on Public Property ? The DOT Workers Should Not Just Lean On Their Shovels

You have bee involved in a car accident as a result of a defect in a roadway. You are seriously injured and out of work for a lengthy period of time. What can you do ? How can you make yourself and your family whole again after your car spun out of control from a pot hole ? Today's blog post discusses what municipalities must do to maintain property under its control and what your rights are if you are injured in an accident on public property in New York.

To hold a municipality liable for injuries you have suffered due to a dangerous or defective condition on property owned by the public, first you must show that there is a dangerous of defective condition. Second, you as a plaintiff have to show that the municipality did not exercise reasonable care by failing to repair the condition or defect or to take suitable precautions to warn of the defective condition. Third, you as a plaintiff must show that that the municipalities' failure to repair the defective condition or warn of it was a substantial factor in causing the injury to you. What does all of this mean ? What do attorneys look at to establish these facts ? Well, there are many things that attorneys will inquire about and use to prove these elements in a case against a municipality.

As always, one of the most important sources of information is our client. You were involved in the accident and you may have knowledge of the property that was involved in your accident. Maybe this is a roadway that you travel daily in your commute to work. Maybe this is a park that you frequent all the time with your children. These are just a few of the things that we as attorneys will ask about when you consult us. Did you or anyone else that lives in the area know about the pothole that you hit ? How long has that pothole existed in the roadway ? Have any of your neighbors complained about the condition to the town ? Has anyone else you know in the neighborhood had a problem with the stretch of roadway that caused your accident ? Has the municipality been notified of the defect ?

Regarding the issue of whether the municipality received notice of the defect, many municipalities have local law or ordinance that requires it receive written notice of a defective condition that is specific enough to identify a defect before it can be held liable for personal injuries caused by a defective condition. These notifications can be found through FOIL requests through the clerk's office of village, town or city that owns the property on which you were injured. FOIL request are just letters to the town, village, city or county clerk asking for prior written notice of a defective condition under the Freedom of Information Law.

What is a dangerous of defective condition ? A condition in real property that is claimed to be defective must be shown to not be reasonably safe. What does this mean ? Well, this question is usually left up to a jury to determine. A pothole that is only 6 inches wide and an inch or two deep may not be unsafe for a vehicle. This same pothole may be unsafe for a pedestrian who walks over it and trips, falls and breaks his or her ankle as a result of stepping into the pothole.

Next we have to look into whether the property owner used reasonable care in maintaining the property where the accident occurred. Reasonable care means a degree of care that a reasonably prudent property owner would use under the same circumstances. There has to be an element of foreseeable danger from a defective condition and a lack of taking care of the property as a reasonably prudent property owner. In other words, you have to show that the defect existed for a while, that it should have been noticed or that it was noticed and ignored and that it was a defect that common sense would dictate altering someone to fix it because it could cause an accident if left alone. You can also have a defect that would not be prudent to repair, but there was no warning of the dangerous condition. An example of this could be hidden driveways, hills, bumps, no shoulders on a roadway or a lack of guardrails.

Last, but certainly not least, you as a plaintiff must be able to show that the defect was a substantial factor in causing your accident. If we are talking about the trip and fall in a pothole, that situation is obvious. If we are talking about a failure to warn of a dangerous condition, this example is a little more difficult. Normally, this circumstance would require expert testimony to show that the dangerous condition required a warning and that an adequate warning would have assisted in preventing the accident.

In summary, villages, towns, cities and states are responsible for maintaining the property under their control. If you have been involved in an accident and you suffered injuries as a result of a defect or a dangerous condition on public property, you should give us a call to discuss your case further. We always offer free consultations and free case evaluations. We can and will meet you during evening hours and on weekends if necessary. You should always inquire about your case if you suspect you have been the victim of someone's negligence and please remember that the attorneys at Michael R. Varble & Associates, P.C. will fight for you !