Simply walking down the street can be a risky endeavor in Atlanta, where obstructed and deteriorating sidewalks are a fixture of everyday life. Getting around safely is even more difficult for those Atlanta residents for whom walking itself is challenging or impossible. Small cracks and rises that many able-bodied pedestrians don’t notice can pose a serious danger and obstacle for users of wheelchairs and other assistive devices.
That’s the reason for the latest lawsuit concerning Atlanta’s sidewalks. Three Atlanta residents with physical disabilities have filed a class action lawsuit against the city, on behalf of themselves and others in similar situations, for its failure to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Atlanta Never Kept Its Promises from Last Time
Being sued for the condition of public sidewalks is nothing new for Atlanta. Under a settlement from 2009, the city was required to establish a system for citizens to report deteriorated sidewalks, as well as create curb ramps on all sidewalks constructed or altered since 1992. The deadline for the required upgrades was 2012, and seven years later, they still have not been done.
In fact, it’s unclear how the city ever planned to comply with the settlement. Atlanta has a long-standing policy of spending little to nothing on sidewalk maintenance, in spite of the desperate need for repairs that would cost a fraction of typical road maintenance spending. It wasn’t until the passage of a new ordinance in 2015, three years after the unmet deadline, that sidewalk repairs became part of the city budget — a much smaller part than would be needed to keep up with deterioration, much less make any forward safety progress.
Officially, Atlanta home and business owners are responsible for the cost of maintaining sidewalks adjacent to their properties. Regardless of whether that arrangement is economically fair or not, it certainly hasn’t been effective at keeping Atlanta’s sidewalks safe and traversable. This is partly because issuing a citation to a landowner for unsafe sidewalks means acknowledging that the sidewalks are unsafe. Having documented foreknowledge of a hazard only makes the city more obviously liable for any resulting injuries, giving city officials every incentive to avoid enforcing maintenance standards.
The results of this stalemate can be felt underfoot by hundreds of thousands of Atlanta residents, and those who need wheelchair-accessible routes continue to find themselves stranded, or forced to choose between battling street traffic or risking a fall.
The Latest Class Action Suit Offers No Remedy to Existing Victims
The plaintiffs of the suit have stated that they’re not seeking money; they only want to see the problem fixed. That’s a noble goal, no question. Fixing Atlanta’s sidewalks means fairer accessibility for all residents and visitors, and each improvement stands to protect countless potential victims from injury. In the meantime, however, residents both with and without disabilities continue to fall and hurt themselves, sometimes badly, and the snowballing expense of medical bills and lost work can make it difficult for many to get figuratively back on their feet.
If you’ve been injured because of Atlanta’s crumbling sidewalks, call the Stoddard Firm or reach out through our online chat function to learn how we can help you get the compensation you deserve.