What If Local Government Was Negligent?

If you are injured due to someone else’s negligence, you generally have the right to file a lawsuit against the responsible party. This is true if the negligent party was an individual or a business entity, but what if it was the government of your city or county? You have the right to file a personal injury suit against local government in certain circumstances. Even when your case qualifies, however, there are special requirements that apply.


There is a principle called “sovereign immunity” that applies in certain accident cases involving city or county government. Sovereign immunity protects the government from personal injury lawsuits in certain cases. For example, if you were hurt while trespassing on city property, sovereign immunity may apply and you might not have the right to sue. Different states grant cities and counties sovereign immunity under different circumstances. Pennsylvania grants its cities immunity for accidents involving dangerous sidewalk conditions, while New Jersey provides it to cities that do not supervise activity on public property.


Even in cases where sovereign immunity does not apply, there are different procedures required to file a personal injury lawsuit against a government entity. Here again, the requirements vary in different jurisdictions, but most states will not allow you to file a lawsuit unless you have first sent a Notice of Claim to the responsible government entity and any employees involved in your accident. You may also have to send a copy to a government agency responsible for the receipt of such claims. After that, there is usually a waiting period that you must observe before filing suit. It is important to observe this waiting period, or the court may dismiss your lawsuit. The waiting period typically endures for one to four months.

Even though you must wait to file your lawsuit, you have only a limited period of time in which to send your initial Notice of Claim. All personal injury cases have a statute of limitations, which is a time period in which you must take legal action or forfeit your right to sue. In personal injury cases that do not involve a government entity, the statute of limitations is usually at least a year. However, in a case against the city or county government, you may have as little as 30 days in which to file your Notice of Claim. At most, you may only have 120 days.

Therefore, if government negligence has caused you injury, it is important for you to act quickly. One of our attorneys can determine whether sovereign immunity applies and help you with your Notice of Claim. Contact an attorney like a personal injury lawyer in Trenton, NJ, at the law offices of Davis & Brusca, LLC, for more information.