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What Should You Know about Filing a Personal Injury Claim for a Slip and Fall on Government Property?

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According to the National Floor Safety Institute, falls are among the leading causes of emergency room visits in the US. Since falls are so hazardous and cause serious injuries, claims and lawsuits arising from slipping and falling are common. A slip-and-fall case is a type of premises liability claim—that is, a personal injury claim arising because of an injury on someone else’s property.

However, when the property is owned, rented, or controlled by a government (or quasi-government) body, claiming damages can become more complicated. Under the doctrine of sovereign immunity, people have no right to sue the government unless the government specifically allows them to do so. Today, the state and federal governments both allow personal injury claims. But they limit their own liability, and unless the claims are filed following a very specific process, a person could lose their right to sue.

It may not always be obvious if you are on property under government management or control. Government properties can include:

  • Hospitals
  • Courthouses
  • Agency offices
  • City and town halls
  • Parks and recreation areas
  • Affordable Housing apartments

If you think your injury took place on government property, it’s vital to act fast and consult a Texas personal injury attorney with knowledge and experience in this type of cases. You will have a much shorter window of time to file a suit, and your claims process will be very different. The next steps will depend on whether the property belongs to the local, state, or federal government.

Claims Against State and Local Government in Texas

How State Liability Works

The Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA) provides that individuals can sue a governmental unit for “personal injury and death so caused by a condition or use of tangible personal or real property if the governmental unit would, were it a private person, be liable to the claimant according to Texas law.” See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code § 101.021. This provision allows the state government to be sued for premises liability claims, including slip-and-fall cases.

Nonetheless, the government has the power to limit its liability, so it has set the terms for how someone can claim damages for an injury on its premises. “[If] a claim arises from a premise defect, the governmental unit owes to the claimant only the duty that a private person owes to a licensee on private property, unless the claimant pays for the use of the premises.” See § 101.022.

What does this mean? A “premise defect” is something wrong with the property—a hazard on the land or building itself. A “licensee” is someone who has been allowed to enter onto property without any expectation of commercial benefit for the property owner, such as a guest.

A property holder has a certain duty of care to a licensee. If—

  • There is a dangerous condition on the property, posing an unreasonable risk of harm
  • The property holder has actual knowledge of the condition
  • The licensee does not have any knowledge of the condition

—they must warn licensees or make the condition safe. When they do not do so, and a licensee sustains injuries from the dangerous condition, they may be liable. But this is often not easy to prove. Moreover, there are laws that insulate the government from liability for injuries arising from recreational uses and other special circumstances.

Texas law also limits the maximum damages available in a personal injury case against a government body, depending on which type of governmental unit was liable. The state of Texas or a Texas municipality may be liable for up to $250,000 for each person and $500,000 “for each single occurrence for bodily injury or death.” A unit of local government has lower damage caps—$100,000 and $300,000, respectively. See § 101.023.

How Claims Work

In order to preserve the right to file a lawsuit against the state of Texas, a claimant must file a notice of claim within six months of the incident leading to the injury. This is much shorter than the statute of limitations would be between private parties, which is two years. A city, county, or town may pass ordinances requiring an even shorter time limit. The City of San Antonio requires notice within 90 days. This gives the city, town, or state a chance to settle the claim.

Claims Against the Federal Government

An injury in a federal courthouse or on federal land may involve a claim against the US government. The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) sets the requirements for filing a claim against a federal governmental unit.

This requires filing a claim within two years against the agency or government body in control of the property where the injury occurred. If the government denies the claim or does not respond to it within six months, then the claimant can only file suit within the next six months. The federal government does not have specific limits on the damages it can be liable for, but it is not possible to seek punitive damages against it.

Again, there are limitations on the government’s liability for specific uses of their property, including recreational uses. An experienced personal injury attorney will be able to determine whether an injury gives rise to a claim.

Seeking Help for Your Injury

The Crash Angels at the Pelaez Law Firm deliver have the knowledge and experience to handle slip-and-fall cases and other personal injuries in Texas. Call our San Antonio offices today at 210-801-9314 to schedule a free initial consultation about your case.

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