Chicago’s vague sidewalk laws create confusion about responsibility for repairs and injuries. Because Chicago sidewalks are maintained by the city, as well as private property owners, responsibility for repairs and injury liability are not always clear.
Dangerous Chicago Sidewalks
Chicago has a voluntary Shared Cost Sidewalk Program that allows property owners to split the costs of sidewalk repairs with the city. Many property owners are willing to pay between $600 and $1,500 out of their own pockets to repair dangerous city sidewalks, while others consider sidewalks to be city property that should be maintained and repaired by city services. The shared responsibility for sidewalk maintenance and repair costs leads to liability questions for pedestrian injuries.
Crumbling sidewalks cause thousands of slip and fall injuries each year. In Chicago, there were 485 lawsuits for slip and fall injuries over the last six years. According to records, 70 percent of those personal injury cases were closed without any city responsibility for financial damages. According to city officials, money that’s paid out for sidewalk maintenance, repair, and replacement far exceeds payments for city settlements and judgments in slip and fall lawsuits. According to the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), the city spent close to $18 million in 2013 to improve sidewalk conditions throughout the city.
Between 2008 and 2013, Chicago received 1,800 sidewalk repair requests every two months. In the first two months of 2014, approximately 2,500 sidewalk repair requests were made from property owners and pedestrians. CDOT says they receive a high number of sidewalk repair requests during winter months, but repairs are often delayed due to Chicago’s extreme winter weather conditions. When sidewalk repair requests are received CDOT plays a role in determining which sidewalks are dangerous enough to warrant repairs from city funds. According to officials, sidewalk repairs are only paid for by the city if they are deemed to be especially hazardous.
Chicago has miles of broken and damaged sidewalks throughout the city, but repairs are often delayed due to lack of city funds. Property owners continue to sign up for the Shared Cost Sidewalk Program because it’s the fastest way to fix their sidewalks. While slip and fall accidents continue to rise, the city and property owners are left wondering who is responsible for sidewalk repairs and injury damages caused by Chicago’s dangerous sidewalks.