Public property – the streets, parks, sidewalks, and buildings that are the responsibility of a government agency – must be maintained for safety and kept hazard-free. If you are injured on public property in this state, discuss your rights with a Raleigh premises liability attorney.
If public property is not adequately maintained, and you are injured, what are your rights? Can you bring a premises liability lawsuit for negligence against a government agency? Can you be compensated for your medical bills and lost wages if you are injured on public property?
Who is Liable If You Are Injured on Public Property?
If you’ll keep reading, you will learn the answers to these questions, and you will learn more about your rights under North Carolina law as an injured victim of negligence.
Who is accountable if you are injured at a public park, or if your child is injured at a public school or playground? What if you trip on cracked pavement on a public sidewalk, or you trip over curled-up carpeting at City Hall or the public library, and you’re injured?
If someone is injured in this state due to a hazardous condition on a municipal, county, or state property, the government agency in charge of the property may have liability for that individual’s personal injuries.
Can the Government Be Held Liable for a Traffic Accident?
In a traffic crash, a government agency’s negligence could be linked to improper or misleading road signs, inadequate storm drainage, poor visibility, or damage to the road itself.
Road conditions – and the government agencies responsible for maintaining North Carolina’s streets and highways – may be a direct cause of serious personal injuries if a curve is not graded properly, if a pothole isn’t promptly repaired, or if a road sign is obscured for any reason.
What Does It Take to Prevail With an Injury Claim?
In all North Carolina premises liability lawsuits, whether you are injured on public or private property, to recover compensation for medical bills and lost income, you and your attorney must prove:
- The owner of the property had a “duty of care” to keep the premises reasonably safe.
- The owner of the property failed in that duty by disregarding a hazard on the property.
- That hazard directly caused your personal injury or injuries.
- The injury caused damages that entitle you to recover compensation.
Premises liability claims against government agencies are not handled like cases that involve only businesses and individuals. If you are injured on public property, a premises liability lawyer will explain the special rules for bringing an injury claim against a government agency.
What is the North Carolina Tort Claims Act?
Under the legal concept of “sovereign immunity,” no government may be sued without its own consent. However, the North Carolina Tort Claims Act waives sovereign immunity and allows the government to be sued if a government employee or agency is responsible for your injury.
The North Carolina Tort Claims Act applies in this state whenever a government agency could be sued if it were a business or a private individual. The law specifically waives the state’s immunity against premises liability claims based on negligence.
If a government employee or agent, while acting within the “course and scope” of his or her official duties, injures someone through negligence, the victim has the right to bring an injury claim with the help of a Raleigh premises liability lawyer.
What Types of Injuries May Involve Government Liability?
The injury claims filed against government agencies in North Carolina include but are not limited to claims arising from:
- traffic accidents that involve government-owned vehicles
- traffic accidents caused by poorly-maintained streets and highways
- injuries to children at schools, parks, playgrounds, and public swimming pools
- slip-and-fall and trip-and-fall incidents on sidewalks or in public buildings
- wrongful deaths
However, if a government employee or agent acts outside of the “course and scope” of his or her official duties and injures someone intentionally, the victim may bring a claim against the agent or employee as a private individual, but the victim cannot sue the government agency/employer.
How Are Injury Claims Against Government Agencies Handled?
A premises liability claim against a state or local government agency in North Carolina must be filed with the North Carolina Industrial Commission (NCIC) within three years of the incident. A wrongful death claim must be filed within two years of the date of the death.
Don’t wait two or three years and then scramble to file an injury claim at the last minute. Contact an attorney as soon as you have received medical treatment for your injury. Your attorney should examine the evidence while it’s fresh and question the witnesses before their memories fade.
Negligence claims against government agencies are heard and decided by the NCIC. If you are injured on public property because the agency that maintains the property was negligent, you must be represented by an attorney who has successfully handled cases heard by the NCIC.
What Compensation Can a Victim of Negligence Receive?
Damages that are available through an injury claim against a North Carolina government agency are comparable to damages that can be recovered in other personal injury cases for medical bills, lost wages, and personal pain and suffering.
However, under the North Carolina Tort Claims Act, the total for noneconomic damages (such as pain and suffering damages) available through an injury claim against a government agency is capped at $1 million.
What Are Your Rights If Your Child is Injured at School?
Public schools are obligated to provide a reasonably safe environment for students, but school districts handle thousands of children every school day, so some kind of negligence is virtually inevitable.
According to the North Carolina Department of Insurance, more than 14 million children are injured in the U.S. every year, and over 3.5 million of those injuries occur on or adjacent to school properties.
In the North Carolina public school system, if a teacher in the course and scope of his or her official duties injures a child through negligence, parents can sue both the teacher and the local board of education, as the board of education is the teacher’s employer.
If a negligent teacher’s actions in this situation were not malicious, illegal, or beyond the course and the scope of the teacher’s official duties, the state-provided professional liability insurance that covers most public school employees in North Carolina can be used to settle a claim.
Yes, You Can Afford to Take Legal Action
If you are injured in North Carolina because a government agency was negligent, don’t file any claim or agree to any settlement before you’ve consulted a Raleigh premises liability attorney.
Attorneys in North Carolina who handle personal injury cases work on a contingent fee basis, so if you proceed with a premises liability claim against a government agency, you will pay no attorney’s fee until and unless your attorney recovers compensation on your behalf.
Your first consultation with a North Carolina premises liability attorney is also provided at no cost and with no obligation. It’s your opportunity to learn how the law applies in your own case and to receive the personalized legal advice that you will need as an injured victim of negligence.