Government property generally includes public parks, government buildings, public museums, public sidewalks, roadways, and all other locations that are owned or controlled by a government agency. What happens if you suffer an injury on this property? Can you sue the government to recover any losses that you may have sustained?
Years ago, the answer would have been a vociferous “no.” In 1948, however, Congress passed the Federal Tort Claims Act. Soon thereafter, individual states began to enact their own forms of tort claims legislation. The results? People injured on federal and state government property can now file personal injury lawsuits against the government…both the federal government and state governments. Let’s take a further look.
Duty to Keep Government Property Safe
Federal, state and local governments have a legal duty to keep government property safe for visitors. “Visitors” include both private persons, as well as, contractors invited onto government property to make repairs or improvements. When a government entity fails to uphold this duty, it’s considered negligent. If this negligence results in injuries, then the government may have to pay for damages suffered by the injured party.
To help understand the nature and breadth of this duty, let’s consider some common injuries a person may experience on government property. A few examples include:
- Slip and falls in government buildings and on government property
- Public school assaults
- Accidents upon mass transit systems
- Drowning in public pools
- Auto accidents resulting from poorly maintained roads or defective traffic signals
Please keep in mind that if a person is injured due to the government’s negligence, that person may be entitled to recover such damages as: medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. But, how does a person actually recover these damages?
Personal Injury Claims Against Government Entities
Filing a personal injury claim against a government entity initially begins with filing a notice of claim. The notice is filed with the government entity responsible for maintaining the specific property on which an injury was suffered. The notice of claim serves two important purposes: (1) it makes the government aware that a person intends to seek compensation for injuries; and, (2) it gives the government time to investigate and respond to the claim.
Upon investigating a claim, a government entity can either deny it or admit it. If the entity admits a claim, then it will compensate an injured party for specific damages. If a claim is denied, an injured person has the right to then file a lawsuit against the entity involved.
Please note that proving negligence is the underlying requirement for a person to be successful in filing a claim for damages. In general, proving government negligence requires an injured party to show:
- A government entity owned or controlled the specific property on which the injury took place.
- A dangerous condition existed on the property.
- The government entity knew, or should have known, that the dangerous condition existed.
- The entity had a reasonable amount of time to repair the dangerous condition and didn’t.
- The injury did not result from the injured party’s own recklessness or hazardous conduct.
Contact Phillips Law Firm for Help
Filing personal injury claims against the government is never easy. The filing process involves important documents and filing deadlines do exist. Further, the simple act of proving government negligence is never…well simple. Negligence is a confusing topic and its proof requires several difficult legal elements to be met.
But, please don’t worry. Phillips Law Firm is an experienced personal injury firm well versed in filing personal injury claims against the government. Our exceptional team of trustworthy attorneys stands ready to assist you with your specific case. Please contact them today and let them help!