Who Is Responsible for Distracted Walking Incidents?

Photo of Pedestrian Crosswalk with fast truck

You’ve probably seen footage of the woman falling down a sidewalk cellar here in New Jersey. In security video, the woman appears to be checking her phone before the accident, but there’s more to the story. New details are changing what many thought was a clear-cut case of personal neglect, and it could change the way we all view distracted walking incidents.

Who Was at Fault in this Distracted Walking Accident?

A 67-year-old woman was visiting New Jersey from Florida when she started to feel nauseated. Being a diabetic, and on a strict regimen of scheduled medications and meals, she pulled out her phone. As she checked the time, she bumped into a strange metal object and toppled over it.

Passersby and gas workers were shocked as the woman fell six feet and sustained severe injuries. At first glance, many thought this was merely another distracted walking incident, but they were wrong.

The Florida woman is legally blind, and has troubles distinguishing objects of similar color. The cellar doors and the sidewalk were both gray, so there was no way for her to see the open sidewalk cellar. Gas workers, who were fixing a broken gas pipe below, neglected to post brightly colored cones or signs warning of the danger. Such signs may have prevented this woman’s fall, and their absence may have also made the property owner and gas company liable for her injuries.

When Are Property Owners Responsible for Distracted Walking Incidents?

In New Jersey, property owners have a “duty of reasonable care”. That means that, within reason, property owners are responsible for the safety of visitors on their premises. If a safety hazard isn’t fixed or people are not warned of potential dangers, serious injuries can result, and property owners could be liable for the medical bills.

Brought to you by Keefe Law Firm—our New Jersey premises liability attorneys have a record of successful settlements and verdicts.

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