Can you sue if you fall on a city sidewalk?
The answer to this question is more complicated than a simple yes or no. You can get compensation if your injury occurred through the fault of the city or any other government entity, but in most municipalities and states, you cannot simply file a lawsuit against a government agency or government employee.
That's because governments are free to set the rules under which they can be held liable for causing injuries and other losses. And in most cases, state and local governments have set up a strict procedure under which a claim for compensation can be made. You usually need to file a claim or notice of claim within a relatively short amount of time after your accident or injury, typically 30 to 180 days in most cases. What to include in the claim -- or the form to use -- also varies depending on the government entity or agency involved. So, if you think a government agency might be responsible for causing your injury, your best first step is to contact the clerk's office for that agency and ask about the process and requirements for filing an injury claim.
For everything you need to know about these kinds of claims, check out our Injury Claims Against the Government section.
Of course, while the procedure for getting compensation for your injury will be unique if the government is potentially liable for your accident, your obligations of proof are no different than they would be in any other kind of slip and fall case. You need to be able to demonstrate that the government and/or one of its employees was somehow negligent in connection with your accident.
Maybe you tripped on a buckling sidewalk that was not maintained properly, and you're able to show that the government had adequate notice of the danger, because a dozen other city residents lodged complaints over the condition of the sidewalk.
That's just one example. The point is that you need to do more than show that you fell while on a city sidewalk. You need to show how the government failed to fulfill its duty of reasonable care when it comes to maintaining city property, and you were injured as a result of that failure. Learn more about what you need to prove in a slip and fall case.
by: David Goguen, J.D.