Accidents that cause injuries can happen anywhere, both on private and public property. From parks and playgrounds to government buildings and schools, both state and local governments are expected to keep a safe environment for the public. When issues such as lack of maintenance or negligence result in an unsafe situation that causes someone to get hurt while on a location owned or maintained by a government agency, it is possible to seek compensation for injuries and some damages. There are, however, a few key differences between a personal injury claim against a private individual or entity and a government entity.
Can I Sue the Government If I Was Injured on Public Property?
The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) of 1948 enabled citizens to file suit against the government after being injured on federal property or by federal employees, thus doing away with the old sovereign immunity rule that prevented anyone from suing the government for any injury claims until then. After that, several states and local governments enacted their own version of the FTCA, giving the people the ability to seek compensation after an injury on public property.
The biggest difference between filing a personal injury lawsuit against a non-government entity and a government entity is the steps you need to take before you can take your case in front of a court. If you’ve been injured, your first step is to provide an official notice to the government agency that owns or controls the property where the accident happened. In most cases, you cannot initiate a lawsuit before doing that. If the government agency receives your claim and denies it, then you may seek compensation through a lawsuit.
How Do I Initiate a Claim Against a Government Agency ?
Each agency may have slightly different requirements and deadlines, so make sure to check the rules that apply to where your accident happened. Generally speaking, your first step is to formally notify the government agency about your accident by filing a notice of claim. This is where many mistakes are made, because your claim will only be received if you fill out the appropriate form with every bit of information about the accident, such as your contact information, details about the injury as well as why you believe the government was negligent. If you file the wrong form or fill it out incorrectly, your claim will probably be dismissed.
You will also need to check the deadline for filing a claim, as some agencies may give you as little as 30 days, and this may vary from agency to agency. Failing to file your claim within the proper deadline will also most likely result in a dismissal. Once you have gathered the correct forms, filled them out and filed your claim in a timely manner, the government agency will have the chance to make a decision about your claim.
It is also important to mention that it will be up to you (the injured party) to prove that government agency or employee was negligent and caused your accident. This is when it may be in your best interest to collect evidence to support your case, such as photos, videos, witness statements, property records, and anything that might help prove that you were not to blame, and that the agency or employee knew about the unsafe situation that caused your accident and failed to address it.
How Much Money May I Be Able to Receive for a Claim Against the Government?
Another key difference when it comes to filing an injury claim against the government is the type of damages you may be compensated for and the amounts you are eligible to receive. In a regular personal injury civil suit, there is no limit to the dollar amount you may get for losses resulting from economic and non-economic damages (such as pain and suffering).
But depending on the particular government agency you are filing against, there may be a strict limit on how much money you may be able to get, and you may not be able to receive compensation for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering in some cases. Even in cases that involved gross negligence or reckless disregard for another person’s safety, a government agency is exempt from paying punitive damages. In other words, you are still able to receive compensation for your injuries, but you can expect your compensation to be capped at a specific amount and to only cover economic damages such as medical bills and lost wages, for example.
Do I Need an Attorney to File a Claim Against the Government?
As you can see, there are a few extra steps you need to take in order to receive compensation for an injury that happened on government property. While it is possible to file a claim without the help of an attorney, you may quickly find yourself overwhelmed by all the red tape and short deadlines required by the government agency that controls the property where you got hurt. One simple mistake can cost you a lot and leave you paying out of pocket for your losses.
It is in your best interest to seek the help of a personal injury law firm that has a good track record of helping clients injured on government property to successfully recover compensation for their injuries. At Thon, Beck, Vanni, Callahan & Powell, we take care of every aspect of your case, so all you need to do is to focus on healing and getting back on your feet. Contact us to see how we can assist you.