Sidewalk Trip Hazards in Southern California.

Have you ever tripped on a sidewalk? Maybe while you were looking at your phone, sending an important email or text. You can blame it on these small sidewalk imperfections while walking. You cannot ignore that your city’s sidewalks might be falling apart. In other words, either you are not walking cautiously, or the sidewalks are unreasonably safe. What is the best solution to improve these hazardous conditions?

Abnormally large asphalt lips are often caused by tree roots, a natural process that is hard to regulate. These lips can physically injure you or other pedestrians if your city’s infrastructure is not well planned or maintained. Trip hazard conditions can be repaired using the proper equipment.

Most of the time we do not realize the importance of construction tools until they affect our daily lives. In this case, our uneven roadways or high sidewalk lips cannot be addressed without the use of concrete scarifiers. If you are not sure what a scarifier is, learn more on our blog explaining everything about "Concrete Scarifiers."

What is a trip hazard?

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 defines a trip hazard as "any vertical change of over ¼ inch or more at any joint or crack.” When it comes to public sidewalks, they provide potential risks, not only to pedestrians but also to cities and municipalities. Including physical and economic risks that lead to multiple lawsuits against the city every year. 

Tripping injuries:

In some cases, a small trip can turn into a severe accident involving broken bones, or long nights at the hospital. Trip hazards are becoming one of the most controversial lawsuits cases. Cities in California like San Diego and Los Angeles subsidize more legal settlements, than the actual five-year infrastructure investment plan. Let’s dive into some of the quick facts of sidewalk claims found in these cities:

San Diego:

According to The San Diego Union Tribune, in 201, the city of San Diego estimated 5,000 miles of sidewalks with at least 39,000 tripping hazards in the city. San Diego faces infrastructure problems as their number one problem with an estimated $2 billion infrastructure accumulation. Several sidewalk lawsuits have led the city to spend more on legal settlements than proper sidewalk repair. In the last five years approximately $10 million in total payouts have been made.

San Diego's News10 asserts in the last five years since 2017 there has been 123 sidewalk cases with injuries out of 18,463 complaints that led to claims against the city. Back in 2014, a $12,000 payout was made to Deborah MacDonald. This pedestrian tripped on a slab of concrete three inches above the pavement, hitting her face on the ground. Although she miraculously did not break a bone, she spent several nights at the hospital to recover. The city of San Diego settled for the aforementioned price, however MacDonald was not satisfied with the city just putting patching the sidewalk with asphalt, where she was injured - she wanted the city to fix the hazardous conditions appropriately.

It is expected that sidewalks should be walkable. Something needs to be done, and not just wait until someone gets injured. While the average payout in San Diego, according to News10,  was $13,423, the actual average cost to repair sidewalks was $3,100. Isn’t it just easier to fix them than subsiding trip injuries? It may be easier said than done. Apparently, it will take time to come to an agreement with the city council infrastructure committee to fix trip hazards on sidewalks.

In 2014, a sidewalk assessment inspected every inch of sidewalk in the city of San Diego. So far, the team has completed 3,100 miles of the city’s estimated 5,000 miles of sidewalks. The ongoing analysis was the first of its kind in city history. The Infrastructure Committee decided to spend $1 million to work with 24 engineering interns. There were reported nearly 40,000 tripping hazards found that need proper repair.

Former Mayor and His Wife Are Suing San Diego: 

Furthermore, according to San Diego Union Tribune, back in 2015 former San Diego Mayor Roger Hedgecock’s wife, Cynthia Hedgecock, also tripped on a 2.5 inch concrete lip in a public sidewalk. This year he and his wife are suing the city of San Diego because the accident required replacement surgery of her silicone breast implants. The city is still deciding trial dates for the sidewalk case. Damaged city sidewalks have become a controversial topic in San Diego accumulating payouts for different claims received over the last few years. In fact, San Diego Union Tribune asserts that over the last two years the city of San Diego agreed on three other big legal settlements of sidewalk cases for $75,000, $98,000 and $235,000.

Los Angeles:

In the case of the City of Los Angeles, The Safe Sidewalk LA program was created for homeowners and commercial owners to receive a reimbursement cap that covers half of their own sidewalk repairs. It sounds easy to apply, but there are some conditions under this rebate program. The CBS Los Angeles News asserts this program used to offer a reimbursement cap set at $2,000 for residential owners and $4,000 for property commercial owners. Recently this year the cap raised across The L.A. Bureau of Engineering to $10,000 for both commercial property owners and homeowners. Unfortunately, early applicants cannot be reimbursed for the current cap. Additionally, not everyone can afford to pay the rebate up front, some people have been put on the waitlist for the access request program. 

Furthermore, last year the city of Los Angeles decided to undertake an annual investment of $31 million, according to the Safe Sidewalks LA program, to repair their sidewalks. Their main concern is to help children, the elderly, and people with disabilities avoid trip hazards. The main message with this new program  is to “get back to basics.” Through a $1.4 billion commitment on 2015, more than 33 miles of sidewalk have been fixed.

Got Sidewalk Trip Hazards?

To prevent future trip hazards we suggest simple tips. Try to be more cautious while you walk or bike. Keep your eyes on the road and avoid looking at your phone. A construction tool like a concrete scarifier can avoid future lawsuits and expensive contractor fees. Submitting claims or applying for rebate programs are worth looking into.