When someone twists their ankles on a sidewalk in Pennsylvania, who do they hold accountable for their injuries? This is the question many people in Philadelphia have had to grapple with over the years. Like most northern cities, the freeze-and-thaw cycle of Philly’s streets creates cracks in the sidewalk that can result in anything from flying headfirst off a skateboard to twisting an ankle.
According to WHYY, a partner of PBS and NPR, sometimes the Streets Department becomes responsible. The department hires roughly a dozen inspectors to monitor more than 2,500 miles of sidewalk. Other times, property owners might become responsible for the sidewalk directly in front of their properties.
No complaint, no remedy
Unfortunately, most people who suffer accidents on the sidewalk do not report them. This stems from the fact that they have no idea who to hold accountable for their injuries. To make matters worse, the small size of the monitoring body compels it to take a no-complaint-no-problem approach to maintaining safe sidewalks.
NBC Philadelphia shares a slightly different story, as the City Council insists that it continues to monitor and maintain the sidewalks. However, it does also admit that it needs more resources to properly do its job. In spite of this, the news agency reports that accidents have cost taxpayers more than $17 million in settlements paid to victims who filed a complaint and pursued damages.
In smaller cities like Johnstown, it is still possible for cracked sidewalks to create personal injury problems for victims and local agencies alike. Thankfully, the costs are unlikely to spiral up to $17 million.