Is the Municipality at Fault if I Slip and Fall on a Public Sidewalk?


In our daily hustle bustle, slip and fall accidents can become an issue for which we need to watch out. We may see broken or intact but wet pavement every day, but regardless of their ordinariness, these are hazards that may lead to serious injuries. After a slip and fall, you deserve to know that you may have a right to recovery. Please continue reading and reach out to a seasoned Memphis premises liability lawyer to learn more about sidewalk slip and fall accidents and how we can help if you’ve been hurt in one.

The Basics of Sidewalk Slip and Fall Accidents

Typically speaking, under premises liability law, you will be entitled to recover damages, economic and non-economic, if you experienced a slip and fall on a public Tennessee street. As many people in similar cases across the country can attest, the first hurdle will be identifying who to take to court.

This is because Tennessee and several other states have, perhaps awkwardly, tried to balance two competing concerns. While municipalities still acknowledge some level of liability and responsibility for injuries on public walkways, many municipalities also shift liability from themselves to whoever owns the property next to the sidewalk, be those commercial establishments or private homes.

Premises liability is the branch of law that deals with when and how to compensate individuals who were injured on another person’s property. To be successful, you’ll need to show:

The owner of the property had a duty to take care of the sidewalk,
But the owner failed to remove or fix hazards on the sidewalk,
Directly leading to the injury you sustained.

Premises liability contains another relevant principle: comparative negligence. If the court determines that you were partly responsible for the injury by not using the caution a reasonable person would, your award will be reduced, by the percentage of negligence you contributed to the accident. For example, if the court finds that the injury was 75% the fault of the property owner for leaving the hazard there and 25% your fault for not noticing an open and obvious hazard, your recovery will be cut by 25%.

How Does Tennessee Treat Slip and Falls on the Sidewalk?

Tennessee has two statutes that deal with slip and falls: the Tennessee Claims Commission Act and the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act. Under the Tennessee Claims Commission Act, you have the right to sue the state for the negligence of a state agency or employee if your accident was the result of

  • Dangerous and negligent conditions on state property
  • Negligent construction of state-owned sidewalks and buildings
  • Negligently caring for someone who proceeds to cause a hazardous condition

And this is true even if government agencies in Tennessee have special protections, as do government agencies across the country. For its part, the Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act allows you to sue local governments for negligence-caused slip and fall accidents.