Sometimes the responsible party in a personal injury case turns out to be the local government – such as a work crew or individual employee or a work crew that was negligent.
In such cases, you may need to file a claim for compensation against the city or other governmental entity. However, lawsuits against governments are more complex than claims against individuals or private businesses. For example, a case against the City of Raleigh or another North Carolina municipality would start with a “notice of claim,” which can be summarily dismissed if not filed correctly.
If you have been in a car accident, been hurt in a fall, or suffered some other personal injury involving a city government or its employees, you need to speak to an experienced North Carolina personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Without knowledgeable legal help, you may miss the opportunity to seek proper compensation for your injury.
At Hardison & Cochran, our personal injury attorneys understand North Carolina’s Tort Claims Act and can provide answers to your questions about holding local or state government accountable. We can review the details of your injury and discuss your options. If we believe that you have a valid personal injury claim against a local government, we will represent you on a contingent fee basis. You will not be expected to pay a legal fee unless we obtain compensation for you.
Scenarios Where You Need A Lawyer to Sue the City
When a governmental agency or an employee acting on its behalf is negligent and someone is harmed, the injured party has a right to compensation for their losses.
A municipality might be the subject of a personal injury (or wrongful death) claim after:
- An accident involving a government vehicle such as a police car, construction truck, parks and rec vehicle, city bus, fire truck, or snowplow. The injured person might have been injured in a traffic accident caused by a city employee who was on duty.
- A slip and fall accident on city property, such as a city park, amphitheater, convention center, or museum.
- An injury caused by material falling from municipal property, such as a building or parking deck under construction or demolition.
- A physical or psychological injury from an attack at a city-sponsored event that lacked proper security, or an attack perpetrated by city personnel ( police, security officer).
- An injury suffered by a child participating in a city-sponsored sports league or day camp due to negligent supervision or equipment.
- An accident caused after your vehicle hit a pothole on a city street. You could also make a claim for property damage to your vehicle from hitting a pothole though there was no crash or personal injury.
How You Can Sue a City for a Personal Injury
If you have been seriously injured in an accident that is the fault of a local municipality (city) or county or its officer, employee, or agent, you may have the right to seek compensation for your:
- Medical costs
- Property damage
- Lost income
- Pain and suffering.
For a municipality claim to succeed, you must be able to show that:
- The City, as an agency, had a duty of care to you
- You were injured on City property or by a City employee, agent, or program
- The City’s breach of duty caused your injury
- The injury you have suffered is compensable.
But to get the right to make such a case in a lawsuit, you must first file a notice of claim. This requires completing a form (such as the City of Raleigh’s Claim Form) and submitting it for the City to review.
This gives the City’s claims review specialists the opportunity to investigate and:
- Agree to your claim and pay the damages you demand
- Respond with a counteroffer to settle the claim
- Deny your claim.
In most claims that involve significant amounts of money in dispute, the City will deny the claim or offer a payment that is less than the initial demand. This typically leads to negotiations and a settlement or to an impasse, at which point the injured individual may file a formal personal injury lawsuit.
As your attorneys, we would have calculated what you are truly owed in damages, so you would be able to judge the City’s offers. Whether to accept a settlement offer is always the client’s decision. If a fair and proper settlement agreement cannot be reached, we would be prepared to go to court on your behalf and prevail.
Filing a Claim Under the North Carolina Tort Claims Act
Because of a concept called “sovereign immunity,” state and federal governments are shielded from liability for conduct that harms an individual unless the government expressly consents to be sued. Under the North Carolina Tort Claims Act, the State has consented to be sued when persons acting on behalf of the state have been negligent.
If negligence is proven, the Act authorizes payments of up to $1 million in damages for medical costs, lost income, and pain and suffering.
The Tort Claims Act allows individuals to bring lawsuits alleging damages caused by the negligence of a state officer, employee, or agent while acting in the scope of the person’s office, employment, or agency. Claims are heard by the North Carolina Industrial Commission, a state agency that was created to act as an administrative court for workers’ compensation claims and certain other matters.
Community colleges and the North Carolina High School Athletic Association are considered state agencies for purposes related to the Tort Claims Act. The Act also gives the Industrial Commission jurisdiction over claims against county school boards growing out of school bus accidents.
To be successful, the personal injury claim must show that the state officer, employee, or agent:
- Owed a duty of care to the plaintiff
- Failed to exercise reasonable care in carrying out that duty, and
- The plaintiff suffered harm as a result of the defendant’s failure to exercise reasonable care.
North Carolina’s strict contributory negligence law applies to the award of damages. If an Industrial Commission judge finds that the injured individual contributed to the accident and their injury, they will not be awarded compensation.
Decisions by the N.C. Industrial Commission may be appealed to the state Court of Appeals if the plaintiff can show errors of law in the Industrial Commission’s decision.
Need a Lawyer to Sue a City? Contact Us Today
The attorneys at Hardison & Cochran can investigate the circumstances of your injury on local government property or due to the negligence of a government employee in North Carolina and advise you of the legal options available to you.
You may be able to hold the agency involved liable for your medical expenses and other losses if governmental negligence allowed a serious injury to occur. Contact us today from anywhere in North Carolina to learn more about how we can help you.