If you experience a slip-and-fall on government-owned property, can the government be held liable for your injuries and associated damages? The short answer is yes – but there’s an important caveat: only if the government entity exhibited negligence in its maintenance of the property. It is also important to keep in mind that there are significant limitations on an injured party’s right to sue in these situations. Specifically, government entities at all levels (federal, state and local) have enacted statutes implementing strict procedural standards for filing personal injury claims against them.
Proving Governmental Negligence
Aside from the complex procedural hurdles claimants must jump through in order to successfully recover damages from the government (which are addressed in the next section), from a basic premises liability perspective, similar to a private entity or business, the government entity is only responsible for slip-and-fall injuries in the following three scenarios.
- The government entity or employee directly caused the unsafe condition.
- The government entity or employee was aware of the unsafe condition yet failed to take reasonable action to resolve it.
- The government entity or employee should have known of the unsafe condition because a reasonable person would have learned of it and repaired or removed it.
As the injured party, you, the private citizen, bear the burden of proof in slip-and-fall cases filed against a government entity or employee. This means that you must prove that your injuries were directly correlated to the government’s alleged negligence. To strengthen your claim, you should preserve evidence of the incident. Suggestions would be taking pictures of your injuries and the scene of the incident, reporting the incident to the relevant government entity immediately, and obtaining the names, addresses, and phone numbers of any witnesses.
Complying with Time and Notice Requirements
The federal government, as well as nearly every state jurisdiction (New Jersey included), have rigid guidelines that you must abide by in order to file a slip-and-fall claim against a government entity. First and foremost of which is providing them with proper “notice.”
Before you can file a lawsuit against the federal or state government entity or municipality, you must first submit a formal notice of your injury with the applicable government authority. Depending on the jurisdiction and level of government, the specific notice requirements may vary. However, they all typically include the information listed below.
- The injured party’s name and contact information
- The date the incident occurred
- A concise summarization of the chain of events leading to the injury
- A statement by the injured party alleging that the government entity was negligent and how this negligence resulted in injury
- A detailed description of the resulting injuries and a list of subsequent medical expenditures and other associated losses
Depending on the specific government entity you are attempting to bring suit against, the deadline for providing this notice could be as short as 30 days following the incident in question. While the exact procedural framework may vary based on jurisdiction, you can only proceed with your government slip-and-fall claim after you’ve provided sufficient and timely notice of your claim and the government entity has been afforded adequate time to either formally challenge the claim or take no action on it. The government usually has a six-month window to submit a reply to your slip-and-file claim notice. After receiving their reply, you have an additional six months to file your formal suit. All of this must also take place within the strict two-year statute of limitations for bringing your claim.
Caps on Recovery in Governmental Slip-and-Fall Claims
There are often significant limitations on the total damages amount recoverable from a government entity. Again, the limits will vary based on the specific municipality you are suing. But keep in mind that they could potentially have a significant effect on what you can recoup for your losses. For example, you cannot collect pre-judgment interest on a claim against a government entity as you would if you were suing a private party. Additionally, there are typically statutes that prohibit claimants from recovering different types of damages from the government. Typically, you can recover “specific damages,” which are objective, quantifiable expenses, including medical fees, rehabilitation costs, and lost salary. However, governmental entities are generally immune from paying “general damages,” which are subjective, unquantifiable expenses, including pain, suffering, and loss of enjoyment.
Injured on Government Property in Cape May Court House, New Jersey? You Need an Experienced Attorney
Successfully litigating a slip-and-fall claim against either a federal or state government entity is inherently more complicated than personal injury lawsuits against private parties. There are multiple deadlines, strict and complex procedural requirements, and a high evidentiary standard that needs to be met in order for you to obtain a damage award. It is essential that you have a skilled personal injury attorney in your corner who is familiar with governmental litigation. And you want that attorney to be involved at the earliest stage of your case as possible in order to provide you with insightful legal advice and help craft an effective trial strategy. This is exactly what you will find when you contact Petro Cohen Petro Matarazzo.
Our personal injury attorneys can answer your questions concerning a potential personal injury lawsuit and help you decide the best path for you. We take the time to listen to your story, review all of your options and potential case scenarios, and help you make an informed decision on how to proceed. You can rest assured that our attorneys will work hard on your behalf to obtain settlements for lost wages and medical expenses to help bring you closure.
With over 100 years of combined legal experience, Petro Cohen’s attorneys, Barry Cohen, Susan Petro, Rich Gaeckle, and Michael Veneziani will handle your personal injury case passionately, fighting for the full and fair compensation that you rightly deserve. They have successfully handled thousands of personal injury cases for clients throughout Southern New Jersey. Additionally, the Petro Cohen law firm was named to the prestigious U.S. News & World Report Best Law Firms in America® list in New Jersey for Personal Injury in 2017.
For more information or a free consultation with one of our attorneys at any of our four office locations (Hamilton Township, Northfield, Cherry Hill, and Cape May Court House, NJ), call or contact us online.