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You Were Injured on Public Property. Is the Government Liable?

Most people know that if you slip and fall on a wet floor at the grocery store, the owner might be held liable for injuries that result. The same goes for accidents that happen at waterparks, on elevators and even at someone’s house. But what if you get hurt due to a dangerous condition on government property? Can you still pursue compensation?

In California, the government — whether it’s a city, county, state or federal entity— can be held liable for injuries occurring on their property. However, filing a claim against the government is different from filing one against a private property owner.

For example, when suing a public entity, you must act much more quickly. Notice of injury claims against government entities generally must be filed within six months of the date of the accident. That’s much stricter than California’s statute of limitations, which gives the injured person two years to bring a claim.

Whether an accident occurs on private or public property, the injured party must prove the following:

  1. That the property was in a dangerous condition at the time of the injury;
  2. That the injury was proximately caused by the dangerous condition;
  3. That the dangerous condition created a reasonably foreseeable risk of the kind of injury that occurred.

But for accidents on public property, the injured person must also prove that one of the following is true:

  • The dangerous condition was created by a negligent or wrongful act or omission by an employee of the public entity.
  • The public entity had notice of the dangerous condition and sufficient time to have taken measures to protect against the dangerous condition.

This means a public entity can be held liable for your injuries if a government employee’s negligence created the danger or if the government knew about the danger didn’t take steps to fix it within a reasonable period of time.

Many times, these cases boil down to how fast the government entity should have acted. For example, Jim, who works for the Santa Barbara Parks Department, is required to check park benches weekly and make any needed repairs. One morning, he notices a loose board on a bench. He plans to come back that evening to fix it. But before he does, Jane sits on the bench and the loose board causes her to fall and break her arm. In this case, the public entity knew about the danger but the injury occurred very shortly after the discovery. To recover damages, Jane would have to prove the delay in repairing the bench was unreasonable.

If you’ve been hurt on public property, you should speak with an experienced injury lawyer as soon as possible. Remember, you only have six months to file a notice of claim. At Patterson Law in Santa Barbara, we will talk about your potential case during a free initial consultation. Call 888-479-4589 or contact us online today.