A slip and fall might not seem like such a big deal, but it can be under the right circumstances. If a slip and fall accident causes you serious injury, then there is a chance that someone can be held financially responsible. But the big question surrounding that premise is "who?"
In many cases, that "who" turns out to be a government entity, whether municipal, state or even federal. The following offers more information on filing a slip-and-fall lawsuit against government agencies.
As with any other slip-and-fall claim, liability has to be established against the government entity in question. This can only happen if said government entity is deemed responsible due to negligence on its part. Such negligence can be established if it's found the entity had a duty to act carefully or create a reasonably safe environment and failed to perform that duty.
For instance, a city government may have a duty to keep its sidewalks in reasonable repair. If the city fails in that task and it directly contributes to your slip-and-fall accident, the city may be held responsible for its failure of that duty, provided that:
1. It either knew about its state and did nothing to rectify it, or
2. It should reasonably have known of the sidewalk's unsafe condition.
That exposes the city's liability, giving you grounds upon which you can file your claim. However, simply slipping and falling on a city sidewalk or any other portion of government property isn't enough to establish the responsible entity's liability.
There are Time Limits
Depending on the government entity in question, there may be strict time limits for filing your claim against the responsible party. For instance, if you are filing an administrative claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), you must file your claim within two years of the event in question. Other government agencies may offer time limits as short as 30 days.
It may take a while for the government entity in question to respond to your claim. In the case of the FTCA, federal agencies have 6 months to issue their ruling. In the event that the claim is rejected, you have six months from the date of the decision to file your lawsuit, otherwise it may be considered untimely and dismissed outright.
Know Where to File
Not only is it critical to file your claim against the responsible party within a reasonable amount of time, but it's also important to file your claim against the correct governmental entity and send notice to the correct office. Failure to give notice to the correct entity could result in your claim being barred.
For example, let's say you are walking along a city sidewalk. If you have an accident on the sidewalk in front of a federal government building, the liability lies with the federal government if an agreement exists tasking the federal government with ownership of the sidewalk in front of its building. The same applies if you slip and fall in front of a state-owned building.
It may take several phone calls to establish the correct entity that should be held responsible. This should be done as quickly as possible if you want to make your claim deadlines.
A single picture is worth a thousand words, especially if it helps give your claims legal standing. It's crucial to gather as much evidence and documentation as you possibly can. For instance, you should take pictures of the accident scene, including the immediate area that triggered the accident and any bruises you've received as a result.
Photographic and video evidence can be especially powerful in cases where ice and snow played an outsized role in your accident. Given that ice and snow can quickly melt or be cleared away in just a matter of minutes, having concrete proof at the moment of your injury can help your case move forward.
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