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What Does Public Property Mean Legally?

By DiBella Law Offices on February 10, 2020

The city of Boston maintains a clear distinction between who is legally responsible for private and public streets and sidewalks, and this distinction is critical when filing a claim for injuries in a slip and fall accident. When you file a claim or lawsuit to recover damages, you are asserting three basic facts:

  • That the defendant (the party you’re seeking compensation from) had a duty of care to protect you from harm
  • The duty of care was breached
  • The breach was the cause of your injuries

The first key that unlocks your case is determining the liable party.

Who is Responsible for the Streets and Sidewalks in Boston?

Boston is a four-season city that experiences significant quantities of snow and relatively intense weather. The first step in filing a claim is to determine what party was responsible for clearing snow and ice or maintaining the safety of the streets and sidewalks. Public and private areas are defined as follows:

  • Public: Anything that is open to general use is considered public. Public property includes streets, sidewalks, parks, and other facilities that are not owned or operated by an individual or business.
  • Private: Property is private when it’s legally owned or managed by an individual or another private party. Driving, parking, and walking areas at homes, apartments, hotels, motels, and many other commercial enterprises are considered private.

The city of Boston dictates the responsibility as follows:

  • The city is responsible for maintaining, cleaning, plowing, salting, clearing, and maintaining streetlights in all public roads and sidewalks.
  • Property owners are responsible for cleaning, plowing, salting and clearing streets and sidewalks on their property, as well as maintaining privately-owned streetlights. Residents are responsible for clearing snow and ice on sidewalks along their property line.

Determining Liability in a Slip-and-Fall on a Public Sidewalk

If you’ve suffered an injury from slipping or tripping and falling on a sidewalk or street, the first step is to identify the responsible party. Some example scenarios would be:

  • If you slipped due to an icy sidewalk outside of someone’s home or business, the property owner might be liable as property owners or managers are required to clear the sidewalks along their property lines.
  • If you slipped due to an icy sidewalk outside of a public park, the city can be held legally liable as they are responsible for maintaining safe public ways.
  • If you tripped on a pothole while crossing a public street, the city can be held liable as they are responsible for public roads.
  • If you tripped on a pothole in someone’s driveway or private roads in a business or apartment complex, the owner can be held liable as they are responsible for maintaining private roads.

What Should I Do If I Suffered an Injury After Tripping or Slipping on a Sidewalk?

The first thing to do is to get medical assistance. If you can, take photos of exactly what caused your injury and the surrounding conditions, as this can be used as evidence. Once you’ve received appropriate medical assistance, you need to contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible. If you claim needs to be filed against the government, you have only a short time (two months) to file your complaint with the government and start proceedings.

Our personal injury attorneys at DiBella Law Offices, P.C., can evaluate all circumstances and determine who’s liable, helping you pursue the maximum compensation for your injuries.

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Posted in: Premises Liability

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