When you go to a public building or property, you probably don’t worry that you will be injured during your visit. Unfortunately, due to dangerous conditions or the negligence of others, many people do suffer injuries in public places each year. When you suffer such an injury, you might wonder who is liable for paying damages to cover your losses. While governmental agencies, counties, and states do have sovereign immunity from being sued, that immunity is not absolute.
Liability for Injuries in Public Buildings
Local, state, and federal governments have a duty to keep their buildings and properties in a reasonably safe condition for visitors to the properties and for contractors who are there to make repairs or improvements. When governmental entities fail to keep their buildings or properties safe, they may be liable to pay damages to people who are injured because of the hazardous conditions.
Overcoming Governmental Immunity
Historically, governmental entities protected themselves from lawsuits by asserting sovereign immunity. With the passage of the Federal Tort Claims Act in 1948, this immunity was relaxed. The act allowed people who were injured on federal property because of dangerous conditions to sue for damages. The states then passed similar laws, allowing injured plaintiffs to sue local and state governments if they are injured in buildings or properties owned by local or state governments.
In order to overcome a claim of governmental immunity, you must show that the dangerous condition existed for a long enough time that the responsible entity had time to be aware of its existence but failed to act. In order to prove your claim, you will need to demonstrate the truth or existence of several applicable elements through evidence or argument.
First, you will need to show that the property where your injury occurred was owned or controlled by the governmental agency. You will also need to prove that there was a dangerous condition on the property that the agency knew or should have known about. Next, you must show that the hazardous condition existed on the property for a long enough period of time that the agency had a reasonable amount of time to fix it. You must also demonstrate that you were injured by the dangerous condition and suffered losses. Finally, you must prove that your accident and injuries were not caused by your own recklessness or negligence. To successfully argue all of these conditions, you will need a knowledgeable and experienced attorney on your side.
Common Injuries on Public Property or in Public Buildings
People may be injured in libraries, post offices, public parks, public swimming pools, at schools, on publicly maintained roads because of defective road conditions, and elsewhere. Common injuries that occur on government property include slip-and-fall accidents, drowning accidents in public pools, assaults in schools by students or teachers, falls on mass transit systems, and accidents caused by defective traffic signals or poorly maintained roads. No matter where your injury occurred or what type of injury you suffered, you will need to make certain that you follow the specific procedural requirements for filing claims against governmental entities to be successful.
Personal Injury Claims Against the Government
Claims against the government differ from other personal injury claims. You will have to notify the responsible government or agency of your intent to sue by a certain deadline. The government will then need time to either admit its liability or to deny it. If it admits liability, you will receive compensation. If it denies liability, you will then be able to file a lawsuit.
The deadline for notifying governments about your intent to seek damages is much shorter than the statute of limitations for personal injury claims against private persons. It may range anywhere from 30 days to 6 months following your accident. Because of the procedural requirements and the tight deadlines in personal injury lawsuits against governments, it is important that you seek legal help from an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible following your accident. So what are you waiting for? If you’ve suffered a personal injury on government property due to dangerous conditions, contact the Law Offices of Bryan Musgrave today. We will help you obtain the compensation you deserve.