Suing the local government for an injury on public property

Imagine the following scenario: You are walking in the street and step on top of a sewer grate. The grate falls through and you are badly injured. You learn that maintenance of the sewer grate was the responsibility of the local township.

You might imagine that this is an easy lawsuit against the local government for failing to maintain its property. That is not always the case.

In Pennsylvania, lawsuits for injuries caused by the local government are governed by the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act (42 Pa.C.S. §8541, et seq.). A local government cannot be sued for negligence unless its conduct relates to:

  • Operation of a motor vehicle
  • Care, custody, and control of personal property
  • Care, custody, and control of real property
  • Dangerous conditions of trees, traffic controls, and street lights
  • Dangerous conditions of utility service facilities
  • Dangerous conditions of streets
  • Dangerous conditions of sidewalks
  • Care, custody, and control of animals, and
  • Sexual abuse

There are a number of requirements and limitations on claims against the local government in Pennsylvania. For example, a notice including the victim’s name, address, doctors, and time, date, and location of injury must be sent to the government within six months of the date of injury. In a lawsuit against the local government, pain and suffering can be awarded only for certain serious injuries and if medical bills are in excess of $1,500. In addition, no matter how bad the victim’s injuries are, the most he or she can recover from the local government is $500,000.

To make matters even more complicated, each exception has its own unique hurdles. For example, for claims relating to injuries caused by dangerous sidewalks, streets, utilities, trees, and traffic controls, the victim must show that the kind of injury sustained was reasonably foreseeable, the local government had or should have had notice of the dangerous condition, and the government had time before the injury to fix the dangerous condition.

In addition, lawsuits against the state of Pennsylvania or the United States of America are covered by completely different statutes with their own unique rules and limitations.

There are may scenarios where you might be injured by the local government. Car collisions with the local police department, a trip and fall on an uneven sidewalk, or an injury caused by a defective sewer grate might all lead to claims.

It is important to immediately consult with an experienced personal injury attorney if you are injured by the government’s negligence. At Warren McGraw & Knowles, we will perform a thorough investigation to make sure we prove who was at fault, identify all sources of recovery, and meet all statutory requirements. If you’ve been hurt by the government, contact the attorneys at Warren McGraw & Knowles to protect your rights and get the compensation that you deserve.