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'I heard it break': Woman says uneven sidewalk led to nearly $30K in medical bills

The NBC Charlotte Defenders team has learned of a shocking number of complaints about the condition of local sidewalks.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — An NBC Charlotte Defenders investigation is cracking an issue wide open that impacts anyone who walks, bikes, or pushes a stroller.

It’s about potential hazards caused by sidewalks in disrepair around Charlotte. 

A woman shared her horror story about being rushed to the hospital after tripping on an uneven sidewalk. Sarah Henderson said the incident led to nearly $30,000 in medical bills.

The NBC Charlotte Defenders team has learned about a shocking number of complaints. City records showed hundreds of reports of sidewalks needing repairs just in the past few years.

Henderson provided photos of her injuries after she says she tripped on an uneven sidewalk across the street from BB&T Ballpark in 2018.

“Blood was pouring out my nose,” Henderson told NBC Charlotte. “I just went straight on my nose and it broke. I heard it break.”

Henderson said an officer in the area witnessed the whole incident.

“He (the officer) comes running and calls the life-saving crew,” Henderson said.

Henderson told NBC Charlotte the incident led to nearly $30,000 in medical bills because doctors had to run several other tests.

 “It was a very significant thing that happened to me,” Henderson said.

The Defenders team obtained city records that showed more than 300 pages of people reporting sidewalks in bad shape just since 2017.   

Earlier this year, NBC Charlotte talked to an 80-year-old woman who said she tripped on an uneven sidewalk outside the government center in uptown earlier this year. She went to the hospital to get X-rays but fortunately was not seriously hurt.

“Cut my lip, hurt my knee, broke my glasses,” she said.

Within weeks of that incident, a man said he flew off a scooter because part of a sidewalk was missing in South End.

“I flew over and landed on my shoulder and my hand,” he said.

City records showed several other complaints from this year about potential sidewalk hazards. In one case, a mother reported her child was hurt because of an uneven sidewalk.  

Another report said moms with strollers have to walk in the street because the sidewalk was so lifted. Someone else reported that several children were injured on bikes and scooters, citing an uneven, broken sidewalk.

“I just feel like something needs to be done to stop this,” Henderson said.

City records appeared to show some calls for help went unanswered. In one 2019 case, an HOA member said they reported needed repairs to the city a year ago, but nothing was done.   

The Charlotte Department of Transportation declined to do an on-camera interview. In a statement, CDOT said there are several reasons repairs can take a significant amount of time, and weather can be a major factor.

“I am petrified of falling now. I do make sure I watch every step I take,” said Henderson.

CDOT said last year they began working with a consultant to survey pedestrian infrastructure. They said when that program is complete, they’ll have an accurate picture of the problem.

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