In the past, many local, state, and federal government organizations were protected against claims of personal injury by sovereign immunity. This means you could not make a claim against the government if you sustained injuries on its properties, or due to the negligence of its employees. There is now an exception to the rule on sovereign immunity. In 1948, the Federal Tort Claims Act was passed by congress. The act limited the rule on sovereign immunity. The Act allowed persons injured on government property or by government employees to make personal injury claims against the government. Following the enactment of the Federal Tort Claims Act, many states began passing their own tort claims act, allowing people to make claims against the government for personal injuries.
The Legal Obligation to Ensure the Safety of Public Property
Local, state, and federal governments are charged with ensuring that government property is safe for visitors, including private contractors and individuals who are hired to make improvements or repairs. A government agency is considered to be negligent if it fails to keep public property safe from hazardous conditions. When such negligence causes injuries, the government is required to pay damages to the injured person. For government personal injuries claims, damages may include medical expenses, lost wages, out of pocket costs, and pain and suffering.
The government has a damage cap to limit the amount a person can recover in damages. Furthermore, any reckless disregard for the wellbeing and safety of others, or gross negligence by the government cannot result in punitive damages.
What is Government Negligence?
Government agencies are required to exercise the same amount of caution required by private persons, to protect their property against dangerous conditions. When the government does not exercise such care, they are said to be liable for injuries sustained by anyone who is lawfully on their property.
For example, if you are driving along a state road and you hit a large pothole, thereby sustaining injuries, the government road agency may be liable for your injuries. The pothole must have been there long enough for the state road agency to notice its presence. If the pothole developed recently, the road agency might not have had enough time to notice and repair it. In this case, the government agency cannot be held liable for negligence.
Conditions For Proving Negligence
To prove government negligence, one needs to show that:
- The government agency had ownership or control of the property in question
- A hazardous condition existed on the government property
- The government agency was aware or should have been aware of the hazardous condition
- The government agency had sufficient time to repair the hazardous condition but did not
- Your hazardous conduct or recklessness did not cause your injuries
Filing a Claim for Injuries on Government Property
When an injury is sustained on government property, the injured person should start by filing a notice of claim against the government agency charged with maintaining the property. The notice of claim informs the government agency about your intention to seek compensation for your injuries. The agency has time to respond to the claim by admitting or denying your claim. If the agency accepts your claim, you will be compensated, but if it rejects it, you may proceed to file a lawsuit.
Filing a personal injury claim against the government can be difficult for the average person. In case you have been injured on government property, you should seek an attorney for a free case evaluation. A skilled slip and fall lawyer Minneapolis MN trusts may review your case and advise you on whether there are sufficient grounds for you to sue the government for negligence, and what settlement amount is fair.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Johnston | Martineau PLLP for their insight into personal injury practice.