New York sidewalks must be kept in a safe condition to prevent accidents. One of the most common causes of sidewalk accidents in New York is vaults and grates that are broken, defective, worn-out, or otherwise present an obstacle that leads to injury. These issues are often preventable or easily fixable. If you have been seriously injured in a sidewalk accident, you may be entitled to financial compensation.
The New York City Administrative Code provides for the regulation of vaults and grates. Pedestrians can assume that sidewalks are kept in proper condition, and a property owner must adequately maintain and inspect sidewalk vaults and grates. The structural integrity of these structures is extremely important. Whether a property owner uses the vault or grate beneath the sidewalk next to their property is irrelevant to their liability for all injuries caused by it.
At Finz & Finz, P.C., our premises liability attorneys understand the safety regulations regarding New York sidewalks and use our skills, resources, and experience to help clients pursue full and fair compensation for medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and other losses related to sidewalk accidents. If you have been injured by a sidewalk vault or grate, contact (855)TOP-FIRM for a free and confidential consultation. After discussing the facts and circumstances of the accident and the nature of your injuries, we’ll be able to determine whether you are entitled to financial compensation.
What Are Sidewalk Vaults?
Introduced in the 1800s in urban areas, sidewalk vaults were the equivalent of loading docks today, and they are still in use in New York and other cities. Vaults allowed delivery (of coal especially) and access to utilities without interrupting building operations. They extend the building basement beneath the city-owned sidewalk. Sidewalk vaults can extend up to and or even beyond the curb under the roadway.
For the use of the vaults, New York taxed building owners, who were expected to properly maintain the structural integrity of them. As the use of coal declined, many property owners decided to stop using the vaults to avoid paying taxes on them; therefore, the maintenance of vaults was forgotten or neglected.
Common Problems with Sidewalk Vaults
Because they are salted in winter and exposed to the elements, sidewalk vaults have a tendency to exhibit water infiltration, which results in damage to the vault’s structural framing. Especially in historic districts where sidewalks have been around for many years, waterproofing protection often is inadequate or missing entirely. This allows water to enter the vault below. The resulting corrosion of steel and the deterioration of masonry compromises the vault’s bearing capacity. This can cause sudden collapses that result in serious injuries or even death.
In areas where streets are narrow, delivery vehicles often park on the sidewalk, putting excessive loading onto vaults, many of which were not designed for vehicle traffic and are likely to have fell victim to deterioration due to neglect. Even old vaults that are intact and seemingly functional may not actually meet today’s load requirements.
New York City law says that property owners are held responsible for injuries or fatalities caused by improperly secured cellar grates. But it comes to sidewalk grates and vaults, owners of the grates– typically the city of New York, utility companies, or transit authorities – are the parties liable for injuries caused by negligence and lack of maintenance.
What are Cellar Grates and Tree Grates?
Cellar grates and tree grates are common on New York sidewalks. Millions of New Yorkers walk over these grates every day and don’t even pay attention to them. But if you walk on a grate that has not been properly maintained by the property owner, you could suffer a serious injury. The New York City Administrative Code requires that cellar grates be level with the sidewalk. Grates should not be in dangerous and defective condition. Despite these requirements, many building owners in New York allow grates to fall into disrepair, leading to severe injuries and even fatalities.
A tree grate is the covering placed atop where a tree is planted. The purpose of the grates, which are found all throughout New York, is to allow pedestrians to walk over the planted area of the tree while also allowing room for the tree to grow. It essentially becomes an extension of the sidewalk. In New York, there is a duty to maintain the tree grate in a safe condition for pedestrians. However, it’s worth noting that tree grates are typically not part of the sidewalk for purposes of the Administrative Code. Even though certain property owners are required to maintain the city sidewalk, those same property owners are not required to maintain a tree grate.
In New York, the burden of maintaining tree grates rests upon the city.
Causes of Grate Accidents
When property owners fail to maintain their grates, dangerous conditions can emerge. When grates become unlevel with the sidewalk area, it creates the potential for someone to trip and fall. If the area surrounding the grate is left to deteriorate, the weight of an individual walking on the grate will cause it to collapse.
Types of Injuries
Injuries vary in their type and range in severity depending on the sidewalk accident.
Common injuries from sidewalk accidents involving vaults and grates include:
- Broken bones
- Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs)
- Spinal cord injuries
- Back injuries
- Hip injuries
- Wrist and hand injuries
- Soft tissue injuries
- Cuts, bruises, and lacerations
Contact a New York Sidewalk Accident Lawyer
Anyone who suffers injuries from vaults or grates on sidewalks in New York should seek medical attention as soon as possible. After your injuries have been addressed, it’s vital that you speak with a skilled and compassionate personal injury lawyer about your situation. At Finz & Finz, P.C., our New York personal injury attorneys are staunch advocates for our clients. We will immediately launch an in-depth investigation of your accident or injury, collecting evidence that helps identify all the parties who could be held liable.
It’s important that we begin investigating your sidewalk accident case as soon as possible. Our lawyers understand the road to recovery that comes with these injuries, and we will fight to recover all the compensation you deserve. If you have suffered injuries from a sidewalk accident in New York, call today at 855-TOP-FIRM for a free initial consultation.