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By: Murphy & Murphy Law Offices

Suing a City or Municipality

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Can You Sue a California City or Municipality for a Personal Injury Claim?

If you have been injured in an accident involving a negligent private citizen or business, filing a claim for your losses is usually relatively straightforward. But what if the accident was caused by a government entity or one of its employees? Generally, government entities are shielded from litigation by sovereign immunity. Still, there are some instances where they can be sued for damages resulting from a personal injury, such as a slip and fall or a city bus accident. The California Tort Claims Act (CTCA) outlines the limited circumstances under which a government entity can be sued. A skilled personal injury lawyer can help you understand whether your case may be eligible.

What Guidelines for Suing a City or Municipality Are Laid Out by the California Tort Claims Act (CTCA)?

The CTCA outlines what types of claims can be filed against a government entity in California and sets out a strict claims process that plaintiffs must follow. Most importantly, victims should know that they must provide the entity with a notice of their claim within six months of the incident. If you do not meet this deadline, it is highly likely that your case will be dismissed.

Every city and municipality has a slightly different process for filing a notice. Some allow you to submit an online form, while others insist upon a written letter. The CTCA requires every notice to contain:

  • The victim’s name and address
  • Their preferred contact address
  • The date and location of the incident
  • A short description of what occurred
  • The damages caused by the incident
  • If applicable, the name of the employee(s) who caused the injury
  • The amount the plaintiff is seeking to recover

What Must Be Proven in a Successful Case Against a City or Municipality?

While there is a burden of proof that must be met in every type of personal injury claim, there are particular facts that must be proven when suing a government entity. For example, if you are attempting to sue for a slip and fall case on public property, you must first prove that a dangerous condition existed when your injury occurred. This hazard could be a broken sidewalk that had not been maintained or a stairway that was missing a handrail. You must then show that this dangerous condition was directly caused by the negligence of a public employee or the public entity itself.

Negligence consists of two parts. First, the city or municipality must have either been notified of the dangerous condition or should have been aware of it. Second, you need to prove they failed to correct the situation in a timely manner or warn the public of the dangers. Because the definition of what constitutes a timely response is vague, it can be challenging to prove negligence. However, government entities are obligated to keep extensive public documentation of their actions, so it can be possible to obtain records that support your claims.

Is It Necessary to Have a Lawyer for Your Case?

While it is not legally required, it is wise to consult a personal injury lawyer if you are considering suing a city or municipality. Due to the complexity of the process and the relatively short window during which you can file a claim, it can be highly beneficial to have an experienced lawyer on your side. They can ensure that no mistakes are made during filing and that there are no missed deadlines that could jeopardize your claim. Your lawyer can also perform the thorough investigation required to collect sufficient evidence to prove liability on the part of the city or municipality for your injuries.

If you have been injured in a public space or by a government employee in California, contact our law firm today at (805)330-3393 for a free consultation to learn more about your options for seeking damages from a city or municipality.