Walking around enjoying city life or being a tourist for the day should be a fun event. But if you get seriously injured on city property or by a city employee’s negligence, you now are faced with medical bills and perhaps lost wages or a permanent disability.
Suing the city for your personal injury might be trickier than filing a lawsuit against a private citizen.
Lawsuits against governments are more complicated because many states grant cities vast immunity against negligence. You can still sue the city, but a lawyer can help you take the special steps needed.
After you’ve been injured, you can’t sue the city right away. A law firm that has dealt with the city before can help you navigate the complicated process. You’ll want to act quickly and reach out to a trusted law firm, as there are time limits to taking action against the city.
After meeting with you, your lawyer’s first step will be to help you file what is known as a “Notice of Claim.” Most states, including Pennsylvania, require a Notice of Claim be filed within six months of the injury. Without filing a proper Notice of Claim, your case could be dismissed from court before it even begins.
Under Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes section 5522, the injured party needs to file a proper Notice of Claim against the government agency involved.
Your lawyer will need to cite the following information in your claim:
● Your name and legal residence
● The date, hour, and approximate location of where the accident and injury occurred
● The name and residence or office address of any attending physician who treated you after the accident
There is a lot of paperwork involved with taking action against the city, and your lawyer can help you ensure everything is done correctly.
After you file your Notice of Claim, usually, the city’s lawyers will review the claim. They’ll decide to either settle and avoid a trial, or they’ll deny the claim.
If the claim is denied, then your lawyer will file a suit of negligence against the city.
To win any case, you need as much evidence as possible. But specifically, when suing the city for personal injury, your lawyer will need to prove what the city’s duty of care was and that it was not met. Then, your lawyer will need to show that its failure to execute that duty caused you harm.
On your end, you can assist your lawyer by providing documentation of the actual injury. Any photos you have of yourself after the injury, medical bills, witnesses who saw the incident that your lawyer can get statements from, and your doctor’s testimony to your injuries will help your case.
Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Title 42, Section 8522 gives the state Sovereign Immunity against certain types of personal injury cases. Essentially, the state "waives" its sovereign immunity "for damages arising out of a negligent act” in cases where a person could also sue another private citizen for damages.
These cases include car accidents, medical malpractice by a government employee, care or custody of personal property or pets, some liquor liability cases, and negligent maintenance of roadways.
However, suing a city in Pennsylvania is governed by the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act. This Act states that a local or municipal government employee responsible was acting "within the scope of his office or duties" and if the injured person could have sued a private citizen in the same matter, they can be held liable. An experienced lawyer can help you navigate where your accident fits in these categories.
While in court, you want to be prepared that the city may try to prove you had some fault in the incident. In personal injury cases against private citizens, damages may be reduced by the percentage of fault you have. In Pennsylvania, if you’re more than 50 percent at fault, you can’t recover anything.
Other reasons a court or a jury may consider the incident to be your fault is if you were somewhere you weren’t supposed to be, like you were trespassing, you were using your phone, you were wearing inappropriate footwear for the venue, and the city took resonable steps to protect you, such as cones placed around a pothole.
If you’ve been seriously injured due to the city’s negligence, you can seek damages to help with your recovery. Since suing the city can be more complex, you will want help from the personal injury experts at Ross Feller Casey. Since there is a time limit to how long you have to act, you’ll want a lawyer on your side that can dedicate themselves to your case. One of our personal injury attorneys can help you build a strong case to maximize your chances of winning against the city.
At Ross Feller Casey, we have a national reputation for winning multimillion-dollar recoveries in cases against cities and other municipal government agencies. We handle these types of cases on a contingency basis, which means you don’t pay unless we win.
Disclaimer: Ross Feller Casey, LLP provides legal advice only after an attorney-client relationship is formed. Our website is an introduction to the firm and does not create a relationship between our attorneys and clients. An attorney-client relationship is formed only after a written agreement is signed by the client and the firm. Because every case is unique, the description of awards and summary of cases successfully handled are not intended to imply or guarantee that same success in other cases. Ross Feller Casey, LLP represents catastrophically injured persons and their families in injury and wrongful death cases, providing legal representation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.