NYC Sidewalk Trips and Falls due to Trees and Tree Roots

Seeing a New York City sidewalk lined with trees can be a beautiful sight. Sometimes though trees on the sidewalk can result in a trip and fall hazard. Dangerous trip and fall conditions on sidewalks due to trees usually result from the following: -Tree roots force the sidewalk to be mislevel -Trees are removed leaving a hole in the ground. -A dangerous condition is created by the placement of bricks or fencing around the tree or the "tree well" creating a tripping hazard. Each of these conditions will be discussed here. 1) Trees need to extend their roots to grow, but as tree roots grow they can raise sections of the sidewalk, creating different levels of the sidewalk. Often whole sidewalk squares (known as "flags" or "flagstones") are raised, creating a mislevel sidewalk compared to other sidewalk squares. Somteimes a sidewalk square will crack. Usualy, the unlevel sidewalk condition caused by tree roots develops slowly over a long period of time. These mislevel sidewalk squares present a common NYC tripping hazard. A sidewalk which is mislevel more than 1/2 (one half) inch in a vertical direction is considered a substantial hazard under New York City rules and codes. Horizontal gaps in the sidewalk of more than 1 (one) inch are also considered a substantial defect. In the City of New York the owner of the abutting building is responsible to repair the sidewalk, even if the defect is created by a tree root owned by the City of New York. If the adjoining building is used for commercial purposes, or is something other than a 1, 2 or 3 family home occupied by the owners for residential purposes, the building owner will be liable for injuries suffered due to a dangerous condition on the sidewalk caused by tree roots or other causes. Otherwise, the City of New York is liable. Exceptions may apply, so check with a lawyer. 2) Most trees on NYC public sidewalks are owned and maintained by the City of New York. When trees are found to be dead, dying, or in danger of falling, The City of New York should and will remove the tree from the sidewalk. Unfortunately, the same crew that removes the tree normally does not plant a new one, leaving a hole in the ground. This hole from a missing tree can be a trap to the unwary, especially if it's existence is blocked by other pedestrians, parked cars, or other objects. The City of New York would be liable for any injuries caused by a dangerous condition created by their removal of a tree from a public sidewalk. The adjoining homeowner would not be liable for conditions in the tree well, unless the condition was made more dangerous by their actions, or the tree well was actually on their property. 3) To protect trees from dogs, people, bicycles and other potential harms decorative fencing or brickwork is often put up around a tree well. Rules exist which dictate what can be properly placed around or in the tree well. When the rules are disregarded, or when the fencing or bricks fall into disrepair, creating a tripping hazard, liabilty may result. The entity or person who created the dangerous condition around a tree well will be liable. Even if the City of New York did not create the dangerous condition they could still be found liable if they were given proper notice of the dangerous condition. If you have been injured due to a sidewalk condition you should contact a lawyer to discuss your rights. The New York City personal inury law firm of Zalman Schnurman & Miner P.C. handles sidewalk trip and fall cases and all other types of accident cases. For a free consultation call 1-800-LAWLINE (1-800-529-5463 or 212-668-0059). All cases are handled on a contingency fee basis so there is no fee if there is no recovery.

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