If you own a small shop in a busy urban area, then you likely know that you need to do everything in your power to make sure that your establishment is as safe as possible. This means eliminating tripping hazards and making repairs as soon as possible so patrons do not hurt themselves. If you do not make these repairs and you know about an issue, then you can be held liable for the costs associated with the injury. While a personal injury attorney, like those at the Bulluck Law Group, can defend you against large settlements, avoidance is best. You should know that this also may mean taking care of the sidewalk in front of your establishment. Keep reading to learn how you can figure out if you are responsible for the walkway and then find out how to take care of cracks.
Are You Responsible for the Sidewalk?
Laws vary from state to state and town to town when it comes to sidewalk care and liability issues. If the sidewalk in front of your business is attached to a public road, then the county or town is likely responsible for upkeep. This is probably true as well if the town clears the snow from the sidewalk during the winter. If you are responsible for clearing snow, then the sidewalk is likely your responsibility. If you live in a warm weather area and regular maintenance is not required, then consider calling your local government to find out if you need to care for the sidewalk.
A call to your town or county clerk is a good first step, since there are a wide variety of different governmental agencies that take care of street and sidewalk issues. For example, the Bureau of Street Services deals with sidewalk issues in Los Angeles, and the Department of Transportation in conjunction with the Sidewalk Repair Program take care of public sidewalks in Seattle. If the governmental agency in your area indicates that you are responsible for the sidewalk adjacent to your store, then think about inspecting it right away for damage.
Other Legal Considerations
If you have recently learned that you are responsible for the sidewalk by your business, you do not need to start panicking about liability issues. According to the law, you do have a duty of care to make sure there are no hazards on the site of your business. However, you are not immediately on the hook for damages if an injury does occur. According to the Premises Liability Act, costs and damages associated with a fall may not be your responsibility if you did not know about the sidewalk damage. Also, if the damage is obvious or if the injured party was aware of the hazard before the fall, then you may not be responsible.
Fixing Sidewalk Cracks
After you inspect the sidewalk adjacent to your business, make sure to take care of cracks as soon as you can to prevent any potential expensive legal battles. If cracks in the sidewalk are relatively small, then you can use a concrete crack filler and sealer made from polyurethane materials to secure the openings. Clear away debris and weeds from the cracks first and use a caulk gun to force the filler out of the tube. Fill in the cracks, but do not smooth the polyurethane out. This is not required, since most fillers are self leveling.
If the sidewalk contains larger cracks, then use your fingers to remove any large concrete pieces from the damaged area. Use a hose to dampen the crack and use a concrete adhesive along the inside of the damage. An epoxy resin adhesive will work well for this, so the old concrete can bind with the new concrete. Afterwards, use a trowel to fill in the crack with a pre-mixed concrete patch material. Cover the wet patch material with a sheet of plastic for one or two days to allow the concrete to cure.