If you trip, slip, or fall on government property, the government may be responsible for your injuries. Generally, you can recover if the government was negligent and the government’s negligence caused your injury. There are four important things to consider in cases of slip and fall injuries on government properties:
- The government must have been negligent.
- You have the burden of proof in slip and fall cases.
- You must meet all deadlines and notice requirements for the suit.
- There may be limitations on the damages you can recover.
The Government Must Have Been Negligent
In most slip and fall cases against the government, a person trips, slips, or falls on the government’s property because of a dangerous condition. Common dangerous conditions include spills, worn or torn spots, or other slippery or hazardous conditions.
If the government’s negligence caused the dangerous condition, an injured person can recover from the government. The government is negligent in three situations:
- The government entity or a government employee caused the dangerous condition.
- The government entity or a government employee knew of the dangerous condition but did nothing about it.
- The government entity or a government employee should have known of the dangerous condition because a "reasonable" person would have discovered and removed or repaired it.
You Have the Burden of Proof in Slip and Fall Cases
As the injured person, you have the burden of proof in slip and fall cases against the government. That means that you must show that the government’s negligence caused your injuries. To help your case, you should take pictures of the accident scene, your clothes, and any bruises or cuts that you received as soon as possible. You should also report to the incident to the proper government entity immediately and make sure that they fill out a written report. If there are any witnesses, you should get their names, addresses, and phone numbers.
You Must Meet All Deadlines and Notice Requirements
The federal government and most states have special rules that you need to follow in slip and fall cases against the government. You usually must file a "notice of claim" with the proper government entity. If you do not file this notice within the designated time period, which can be as short as 30 days, you may lose the right to file a lawsuit.
There May Be Limitations on the Damages You Can Recover
There are often limitations on the total amount you can recover from the government. The limits differ depending on which governmental entity you are suing, but they are sometimes very low.
Also, there are often laws that prevent you from recovering certain types of damages from the government. Generally, you can obtain specific damages, which are objective, quantifiable costs, such as medical bills, rehabilitation costs, and lost wages. However, the government is typically immune from "general" damages, which are subjective, unquantifiable damages, such as pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment of life.
Should I Consult a Lawyer?
If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident on government property, you should consult an experienced personal injury attorney. An experienced attorney can guide you through the laws in your jurisdiction, file your claim in court, determine the value of your loss, and decipher the best course of action for you.