Government Liability in Slip and Fall Lawsuits
People often think of slip and fall accidents as happening at stores, restaurants, hotels, and other types of private property. In these situations, victims can sue the business, homeowner, or other individual or entity that controlled the premises. The situation becomes more complex when an accident occurs on government property. While the government usually still can be held accountable, a victim will need to meet distinctive requirements and handle their claim with greater care. You may want to consult an attorney if you are in this position to make sure that you do not accidentally waive your rights.
Deadlines and Damages Caps
The statute of limitations for personal injury cases controls premises liability claims against private entities. You should be aware that a much shorter time period may apply if you are suing a government agency. In addition to a reduced statute of limitations, you likely will need to meet a notice requirement. This time period varies depending on state or local laws, but it may last no longer than 30 or 45 days in some cases. In any event, you should make sure to immediately report the accident so that it can be documented in writing. You should also take photographs and get the contact information of witnesses without delay.
You probably will be restricted not only in the time for filing your claim but also in the amount that you can receive from it. Most government entities impose damages caps on claims against them. These vary significantly, but many of them are $100,000 or less, even if you incurred costs greater than that amount.
Providing Notice to the Government
A victim of a slip and fall usually must provide very specific information in a formal notice of their injuries. Omitting any of this information or providing incorrect information, even inadvertently, could lead to the denial of your claim and the loss of your right to seek compensation in court later. A notice typically will contain the date and location of the accident, a description of the injuries, a narrative of how exactly the accident happened, and a statement of why you believe that the government or its employee was at fault. Most notices also must outline the losses that a victim incurred because of the accident. These could consist of medical bills, lost income, and other types of financial costs. You will need to provide your address and contact information.
You should make sure that you send the notice to exactly the right government entity. Courts tend to be less forgiving than you might expect of plaintiffs who send the notice to a slightly different branch of the government. You might think that accidentally providing notice to a similar agency should be close enough, but the notice requirement is usually interpreted literally and strictly. Failing to follow it precisely can be a basis for dismissal. If you are proceeding without an attorney, you will want to contact the offices of the relevant government entity and confirm that you have the necessary information.
The importance of providing proper notice also means that you should take care to identify the government entity responsible for maintaining the specific area where you were hurt. For example, federal, state, and local governments sometimes divide responsibility for maintaining a park or a building. One entity might handle maintenance for the site itself, while another entity might handle maintenance for its surroundings. This is another reason to determine exactly where your accident occurred and what appears to have caused it.
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