Determining Premises Liability for Injuries on Government-Owned Property


Did you know that only recently we’ve been able to sue the federal government for premises liability claims?

In 1948, Congress passed the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) that gave us this right. Now, persons who are injured on federal property or by federal employees can pursue a claim and a lawsuit against the federal government.

After the passing of the FTCA, states and cities began passing their own tort claim laws, allowing them to be sued as well.

Pursuing a premises liability claim against the government is much more complicated than dealing with an insurance company. If you were injured on government-owned property, it’s important to be on top of your claim.

Keep reading for our guide to filing premises liability claims against government entities.

Common Injuries on Government-Owned Property

When you start to think about places where injuries tend to occur, you’ll realize that many of these premises are actually owned by the government. These might include sidewalks, public parks, museums, roadways, and government buildings.

Governments are responsible for ensuring the property they own and maintain is kept safe for both individuals and civilian contractors who are hired to work on the property. It can often be difficult to determine whether government property is owned by the city, state, or federal government.

Here are some examples of common accidents that occur on government-owned property and that the government could be legally liable for:

  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Auto accidents where government employees are at fault
  • Auto accidents as a result of poorly maintained traffic signals
  • Auto accidents as a result of poorly maintained roads
  • Injuries at government buildings such as post offices, tax offices, libraries, and public housing locations
  • Falling tree branches
  • Missing or defective guardrails or handrails
  • Faulty playground equipment
  • Drownings in public pools
  • Injuries on public transportation
  • Electrocution from downed power lines

If you have been injured in one of these or a similar scenario and you believe the government may be responsible, you have the right to pursue a compensation claim.

Potential Limits on Compensation

When it comes to pursuing a claim against the government you might not be able to recover all of the compensation you deserve. This is because the government often sets caps on the amount of compensation you can receive.

Typically, if you can prove that the government was in control of the property where your accident occurred, they failed to properly maintain the property, and their negligence caused your injury, you can prove that they are legally liable for your injury.

Then, you must prove your damages. These include economic damages such as medical bills and lost wages as well as non-economic damages like pain and suffering.

When you pursue a premises liability claim against a private individual, you typically include pain and suffering and other non-economic damages in your total damages amount. Unfortunately, governments often limit what you can recover to only economic damages, and pain and suffering will not be considered or awarded.

You may also be subject to caps on the amount of total damages you can claim.

Finally, governments also tend to prohibit you from recovering punitive damages such as those that are typically awarded in cases involving gross negligence.

The Importance of Prompt Notice and Filing Deadlines

Another way in which filing a claim against the government is different than a typical premises liability claim is how you must initiate your claim.

With typical personal injury claims, you usually start by filing a claim against the at-fault party’s insurance company and attempting to negotiate a settlement before taking the matter to court. You also usually have a certain number of years to file a lawsuit. This is called a statute of limitations.

With claims against government entities, you must file a very specific notice of a claim within a narrow time frame. If you make a mistake in this process, you can lose your right to file a claim altogether.

This is why it’s so important to work with an attorney who is experienced with these types of claims. Each government agency has its own rules and requirements. Hiring a local attorney is the best way to make sure you protect your right to seek compensation for your accident.

Governments often require you to file your notice within a narrow time frame, sometimes as few as 30 days. Generally, the relevant agency will either accept your claim and award you compensation or deny your claim. If your claim is denied, you can file a lawsuit.

Proving Government Negligence in a Premises Liability Claim

While the claims processes may differ greatly, proving negligence against a government entity is actually very similar to any other premises liability claim.

According to premises liability law, governments have the same expectation as private entities when it comes to maintaining their property and keeping it free from hazards. As long as you had a legitimate reason to be on the property, you can pursue compensation if the government’s negligence caused your injury.

To prove your claim you must prove that the government owned or maintained the property, the property contained a hazard, and the government should have known the hazard existed, and that the government had enough time to repair the hazard and failed to do so.

You must then also prove that you did not cause your own injuries.

Each state has its own law regarding shared negligence, that is if you were somehow also at fault for what happened. Your attorney will help you prove that you were not responsible for what occurred and that you deserve compensation.

Were You Injured on Government-Owned Property?

As you can see, pursuing a premises liability claim against the government can be complicated. It’s important that you don’t make any mistakes throughout the process, as these can hurt your ability to recover your damages.

Because of the strict deadlines associated with government-owned property claims, it’s best to start working with a premises liability attorney as soon as you realize you were injured in the accident.

Contact us today to get started with a free case evaluation.

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