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I was injured on public property- Can I File a Lawsuit?

As you go about your day, you likely don’t spend time thinking about public property safety while completing your errands. We have certain expectations of safety whenever we:

  • Use sidewalks or other public walking paths
  • Visit the library, DMV or other State and County buildings
  • Spend time at the park

However, whenever those places become unsafe due to negligence, these conditions can injure you. If you are severely injured on public property, you may want to seek compensation for the medical bills and any lost wages you’ve incurred.

It’s hard to know where to start if you need to file a claim to recover damages from your injury, but you shouldn’t have to carry the weight of the physical and financial burdens due to someone else’s carelessness. Keep reading to learn about ways you can claim your compensation.

Public Property Injury Examples

Public property injuries can vary depending on the nature of your fall. Examples of these types of damages include:

  • Tripping and falling on uneven sidewalks
  • Slipping on an unmarked slick floor inside of a government building like the DMV 
  • Getting injured at a public park while taking a stroll on a nice day

In all of these cases, the common thread is that someone neglected a dangerous condition that could have been avoided or remedied by a reasonable person. The cause of your injury must come from negligent or wrongful conduct by a government employee in the scope of their employment. Visit our blog about premises liability for more examples of property management negligence.

How to Sue a Governmental Entity for Negligence: When Is the Government Responsible?

Filing a lawsuit with a public entity can be tricky whenever you seek compensation. Historically, the State government, including counties and municipalities largely enjoyed sovereign immunity from any lawsuits claiming a civil wrong caused loss or harm.  

This immunity was eliminated by the Missouri Supreme court in 1977 but reenacted by the Missouri Legislature the following year.  The general rule is that you are not allowed to sue the State for claims of negligence.  As with every rule though there are many exceptions.  The Missouri Sovereign Immunity Statute specifically waives sovereign immunity for cases involving a State employee operating a motor vehicle who negligently causes an injury, and for a dangerous condition on the State’s property.  For the ‘Dangerous Condition’ exception it has to be shown that the State either created the dangerous condition or that they knew or should have known of the condition but failed to remedy or warn of it.  Though immunity is waived in these situations, there is a cap on the dollar amount of damages that you are allowed to recover.  This cap is adjusted for inflation each year.  In 2021 the damages cap is $441,130.00.  

How long do I have after my injury to file a claim?

The first thing you should know is the specific statute of limitations for your claim. This is a time limit set by law within which you must make your claim or file your lawsuit, or else be forever barred from pursuing the claim.  If your claim is against a large (greater than 100,000 inhabitants) city, then you are required to provide notice of the claim to the mayor of the city within 90 days of the injury.  The general time period for filing a negligence claim in Missouri is five years.  There are so many exceptions and special rules that apply in these cases that the best course of action is to contact an attorney as soon as possible after the injury so they can evaluate your situation and provide you with an answer specific to your circumstances on what notice must be provided and by when any lawsuit must be filed.  

Contacting an experienced personal injury lawyer can help maximize your chances for success. With years of experience, we can make sure your claim goes to the correct entity in a timely fashion. 

How should I document the condition that caused my injury?

If you are injured on public property, taking photographs of the cause of the injury with a cell phone or camera is critical for preserving evidence. States, counties and cities have maintenance departments who may repair or change the appearance of the dangerous condition that caused your injury within days of when they learn of your injury.  This is a good thing as we want our State and Local officials to prevent a similar injury from happening to the next person.  But evidence of the condition is crucial to your case.  Take many pictures of the dangerous condition from different angles.   If the size of the condition is important place a common object such as a coin or cell phone next to the condition when taking the photograph to provide scale.  If there are witnesses to your accident or the condition then gather a name and phone number for any witnesses.  

Does the information in this blog apply if I am injured on Federal Property?

No.  There are different and special rules that apply if your injury occurs on Federal Property such as a U.S. Post Office or is caused by a Federal Government employee.  We can help with those issues also, but the information in this blog would not apply or may be different in that situation.

If you’ve been injured due to your county or city’s negligence, don’t face the claims process alone. Contact Eng and Woods Attorneys at Law. We will fight for you to make sure you get the compensation you deserve.

Check out our blog for more information about personal injury, workers compensation and auto accident cases.

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    903 E. Ash Street
    Columbia, Missouri 65201
    Phone: 573-874-4190
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