In 2012, a senator made headlines when he complained about a bill that was passed in the senate. His complaint wasn’t necessarily with the bill itself. His complaint was that the bill was 600 pages long, and they had only been given the 600-page document the day before the vote. How could they pass a bill that no one had time to read? A better question might be, what kind of bill could possibly be important enough to require 600 pages? The entire constitution of the United States is only six pages long!
Unfortunately, it seems that today, anytime the government gets involved, things get more complicated. This is even true in premises liability cases. If you slip and fall on someone’s property, the owner of the premises can often be held liable. But what if the owner of the property is the government? What if you slip and fall on city property? Can you bring a premises liability case against the government?
The answer is yes…but it gets more complicated. In a normal premises liability case, you must prove duty, breach, causation, and damages. In other words, you need to demonstrate that it was the property owner’s duty to provide reasonable care in keeping the premises safe, and that there was a breach in the reasonable care expected. You must also prove that the breach was the cause of the accident and that you suffered damages as a result.
With the government, there are some strict procedures and timelines that you must adhere to when bringing a premises liability case against them. Here are a few.
The statute of limitations on bringing a suit against the city varies depending on where you are. Some states have a limit of 30 days, others as much as a year. You must also provide notice of your claim to the government, who has 90 to 120 days to investigate your claim. You will have to wait until the notice of claim period expires before you can file a claim.
The government cannot be held liable for planning decisions as the cause of your injury. For example, if they decide to put in narrow stairs at city hall, they cannot be held liable for that decision being the cause of your fall. However, if the builder used the wrong materials and the stairs collapsed, causing you to get injured as a result, the city could be liable in this case.
If a government official exercised due care in executing a statute or regulation, the government cannot be held liable for their discretionary acts. The exception to this exemption is if a government employee acts out of malice.
It isn’t always easy to prove that the government should be held liable for your injury. It is important that you document as much of the evidence as possible. In these types of cases, a picture is worth a thousand words. If you have pictures demonstrating negligence and documenting the injury, it can go a long way in proving liability. It is also important that if you injure yourself, you report it immediately. If not, it will be difficult for you to succeed in your case.