Recent news stories from WTOC Channel 11 and Inman Park 11 Alive brought attention to the fact that Atlanta’s sidewalks are in major disrepair and raised concerns regarding the number of pedestrians injured in accidents Georgia in 2015.
With over 2,000 miles of sidewalks in Atlanta, this concern has gained not only the attention of the news media but also the support of a consumer advocacy group, PEDS. PEDS has taken head-on the challenge of identifying the root cause of the sidewalk conditions as well as potential solutions.
Who is responsible for maintaining sidewalks?
In 2010, Public Works estimated that 395 miles (18 percent) of the sidewalks and 216 miles (10 percent) were in need of repair. At present, property owners are responsible for repairing the damaged sidewalks.
Atlanta Municipal Code §138-14 clearly places the responsibility to fix damaged or otherwise dysfunctional sidewalks on the shoulders of the abutting property owner. The law permits the city to, through Public Works, take over if the property owner does not make the necessary repairs and then bill the property owner.
PEDS believes this is unsustainable and unfair, as many property owners cannot afford to maintain their sidewalks, especially when the damage is outside of their control, e.g. car accidents, trees. PEDS also believes that Atlanta needs to change its sidewalk policy and that all taxpayers should pay for sidewalk maintenance, not only the abutting property owner.
Why does the city need to repair sidewalks? What difference does a broken sidewalk make?
To those who have to travel on it, a tremendous difference. Pedestrians either have to try to navigate the treacherous minefield of tripping hazards or walk in the street and risk sustaining injury in a car accident. Neither option provides any comfort to those who are disabled and may need to use a walker, cane, or wheelchair and may not be easily able to maneuver around these hazards. The risk of injury to pedestrians is extremely high and the liability issues should be a concern to all.
While the city does appear to making some headway in starting to make repairs, the people at PEDS believe that the City still grossly underfunds sidewalks.
What if a pedestrian suffers injury on a broken sidewalk?
If a pedestrian trips and falls on a cracked sidewalk or gets hurt in the street because the sidewalk was not safe to travel, they may be able to bring a cause of action for premises liability against the property owner. Premises liability attorney Jason Schultz can help.
Under certain circumstances, the conditions of the sidewalks may constitute a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act as well, which could result in potential injury actions against the city or other governmental entities directly. Figuring out who is responsible for the condition of the sidewalks is a complicated question and best left to a professional. Be sure to speak to Jason Schultz for advice and counsel.
If you or someone you care about suffered injury in Atlanta because a hazardous sidewalk, contact the Law Office of Jason R. Schultz at 404-474-0804 today.