Elderly mother tripped and broke her arm on cracked sidewalk...

by Marcos
(Taunton, MA)

My 74 year old mother in law was walking on the sidewalk and tripped on a crack that extended from one side of the sidewalk to the other, with a elevation of about 2 inches. At the time of the fall a police officer was doing some detail work on a nearby bridge construction and came to her rescue.

The police officer called for an ambulance which took her to the emergency room. She ended up with a broken arm in two places and had to have surgery to implant metal plates to her arm. She is now on the long road to recovery. I also took pictures of everything. Here are my questions:

1) How can I determine if the sidewalk repairs are the responsibility of the city or a private property? I only ask, because the sidewalk is on the side of a small shopping plaza.

2) Should I contact the city first to report the injury, or get a lawyer to deal with the situation and possibly sue the city (or the owner of the plaza) once I have determined who is responsible for the sidewalk?

3) What type of lawyer do I need? Personal injury lawyer?

Thank you for any information you can provide.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Elderly mother tripped and broke her arm on cracked sidewalk...":

Marcos (Taunton, MA):

Your grandmother's injuries were serious and unfortunate. Some accident injuries can be handled without an attorney, some can't. Serious injury cases like your grandmothers' will require taking the depositions of city maintenance personnel, shopping center owners and management, witnesses, the police officer, and others with knowledge of the injury.

Moreover, subpoenas "duces tecum" must also be served on these entities so the attorney can have access to internal memos, prior complaints, and other evidence which can inculpate the defendant or multiple defendants.

Medical experts must be retained to prove the type of injuries sustained by your grandmother and the likelihood of recovery, including the pain and suffering your grandmother has already endured, and will likely have to endure in the future.

A lawsuit will very likely have to be filed in your grandmother's case. There is just too much to lose if you are considering handling the matter yourself and without retaining an injury attorney.

Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee basis. This means your grandmother will not have to pay any money in advance for attorney's fees, for the expensive medical exerts who have to be hired, the pretrial discovery (including depositions, interrogatories and requests for production) and more.

The attorney will pay these costs on your grandmother's behalf. Moreover, your grandmother only has to pay if and when the attorney either settles her case, or wins it at trial. If the attorneys fails to do either, your grandmother owes nothing.

Each City, Town and Village in Massachusetts relies on its own maintenance codes, including responsibility for the maintenance of sidewalks. In many cases, maintenance is shared between the City of Taunton and private property owners.

To know if the sidewalk upon which your grandmother fell was supposed to be maintained by the City of Taunton, the shopping center owner, or both, contact:
City of Taunton Engineering Department, (508) 821-1027

Chapter 84, Section 15 of Massachusetts General Laws states in part...

"...if a person sustains bodily injury by reason of a defect or a want of repair and such injury or damage might have been prevented by reasonable care and diligence on the part of the county, city, town or person by law obliged to repair the same by the exercise of proper care and diligence, recover damages therefor from such county, city, town or person."

For a thorough discussion of Massachusetts Law regarding sidewalk and public walkways see: Massachusetts - Defects in Public Ways by John Davis, Esq.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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