Are municipalities in Pennsylvania liable if they don’t put up a sidewalk in a known dangerous area for pedestrians?
Being a pedestrian who becomes a victim of a car can accident can be a devastating experience. Typically serious or catastrophic injures are the result along with expensive medical bills and loss of time from work. Whether the driver of the car stays at the scene or whether the driver leaves (thus becoming a hit and run driver), the driver of the vehicle can be held responsible for the damages the pedestrian suffers.
But what if someone is walking on a roadway where there is no sidewalk? Most drivers and pedestrians know the basic laws of pedestrian safety for instances where walkways are marked with crosswalks, signs, sidewalks, or signals. But where there are no sidewalks or marked areas for pedestrians, the rules can be a little murky. Can the municipality be held responsible?
Is it considered negligence for the governing body of the area to fail to install safety features for pedestrians?
The city and state are generally protected from legal action by sovereign immunity laws.
When our country was founded, the lawmakers based their laws upon the laws of England. In England, as in most of Continental Europe at the time, the king or queen could do no wrong. The Federal and state governments placed those same laws in effect in our country. There are “carve-outs”, or exceptions to Sovereign Immunity where the government can be held liable for certain infractions. In other words, you can sue and bring a claim for personal injury damages if your case fits into one of the exceptions.
In Pennsylvania, one of the carve-outs in the law allows for a lawsuit against a municipality for dangerous conditions on the sidewalks and real estate that they are supposed to maintain, but this carve-out does not include the instance in which a sidewalk does not exist.
This means that, unfortunately, there is no protection built into the law for an individual walking along the roadway where no sidewalk exists. It really becomes a political issue. And sadly, if a pedestrian is killed or injured when walking along a dangerous roadway, it’s very difficult to bring a cause of action against the state or local government
At Carpey Law, we have handled and regularly handle pedestrian accident cases for clients who suffer injuries in our Philadelphia and surrounding County communities. In fact we have partnered with a group called SAFE, which has been dedicated to convince their local municipality to install a sidewalk on a dangerous roadway where a young man was killed a few years ago. Movements like these can help prevent needless accidents and deaths and keep our communities safer and happier.
Stuart A. Carpey, who has been practicing as an attorney since 1987, focuses his practice on complex civil litigation which includes representing injured individuals in a vast array of personal injury cases.