Cynthia, in regards XXXXX XXXXX questions, there are multiple concerns. The law states that the city, or the homeowner (whoever owned the sidewalk) would be responsible if they knew, or should have known of the dangerous condition. This means that if someone else had fallen there before you would have a good case. If you were the first person to fall, your case would be significantly harder to prove. Most importantly, before you can sue the government or a public agency, you must first file a claim for damages with them. You can file a claim if you feel the agency is responsible for causing you injury, but you must do so within six months of your injury. The good news is that there is always an attorney willing to take your case. The problem of course is that many attorneys will not want to get involved as liability may be difficult to prove in this situation. The good news is that you do have a witness who saw you fall. While it would have been better that you went to the hospital, this is not completely detrimental to your case. Unfortunately, however, only the injury causing event would be actionable. It will be very hard to prove a case against the homeowner for the bush covering ¾’s of the sidewalk. While the homeowner may have been fined for this, it would not in itself cause liability. That being said, if someone had complained of the bush previously, and the city failed to do anything about it, then you would have strong grounds to state that they knew, or should have known of the dangerous condition of the raised sidewalk, and thus should be liable for your damages. As for not being big enough, as I mentioned before, there are plenty of attorneys willing to get involved once a case is worth at least $15,000, which yours is. Unfortunately, given the difficulty of proving liability, it will be difficult to find one (though not impossible). If you decide to hire an attorney, a great resource is www.Martindale.com. This is a nationwide directory that is useful in finding highly qualified legal specialists in various fields of law. The lawyers in Martindale are not selected because they paid to be included, but rather because they have been rated by other attorneys as qualified experts in their field. Consider consulting with two or three different attorneys prior to selecting the one you feel most comfortable with. If you still cannot find an attorney, consider looking at the state bar referral site as this includes all attorneys in California. You can do this here. http://www.calbar.ca.gov/Public/LawyerReferralServicesLRS.aspx That being said, you mention that you spoke to a representative of the home owners insurance company. Did they give you any indication that they would end up paying out? Insurance companies like this are much easier to get money from than the city. If you can find a way to bring the homeowner into the guise of liability, an attorney will be much more likely to take your case. Unfortunately, from the facts presented, this may not be likely. If you had been injured on this persons property, or if the bush had caused the injury and not the sidewalk then the home owners insurance would be willing to pay out something. Even if they did not think they were liable, they would still pay the medical payments coverage section (usually around $5,000) regardless of fault as it covers any injury that occurs on property. But again, the responsible party would be the party who owned that particular part of the sidewalk, which is the city.
I realize that the law is not entirely in your favor here and I am truly sorry to have to deliver bad news. Nonetheless, I trust that you will appreciate an accurate explanation of the law and realize that it would be unprofessional of me and unfair to you to provide you with anything less.
Please do not hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or concerns regarding the above and I will be more than happy to assist you further. If you do not require any further assistance, I would be most grateful if you would remember to provide my service a positive rating, as this is the only way I will receive credit for assisting you.
Have a wonderful rest of your day.