Owners of public properties in Georgia have a legal duty to maintain safe premises so customers and visitors do not get harmed. If the property owner fails to keep their location safe, they may be liable for injuries that result. But what happens if you suffer an injury on public property in Georgia? You might wonder, is the city where my injury occurred liable?
How Liability Works on Public Property in Georgia
Premises liability accidents can occur when there is a dangerous or hazardous condition on someone else’s property. Most premises liability cases involve private property owners, but they can occur on public property too.
When someone is injured on public property in Georgia, a government entity may be liable for the costs of those injuries. In some cases, that might mean the city where your injury happened holds the liability.
Depending on the situation, the city, county, or state government may be responsible for an accident on public property. It’s best to contact a Georgia premises liability lawyer who can look at the details of your accident and determine where liability lies. If the city is indeed liable for your injuries, your case will look a little different from other personal injury cases.
Examples of Public Property Injuries in Georgia
There are many ways an injury on public property can happen. Here are some examples of premises liability accidents we’ve seen:
- Slipping and falling on cracked or uneven public sidewalks
- Car accidents caused by poorly-maintained roads
- Slip and fall accidents on government property, such as from uneven or curled up carpeting
- A child getting hurt at a public playground
- Injuries on public transportation
- Auto accidents caused by government employees
- Injuries or drownings at public pools
- Electrocution or other injuries from fallen power lines
- Assaults on public property, such as in schools
- Broken or missing handrails
These are just some examples. If your injury accident on public property was different, it doesn’t mean it’s not covered. A Georgia premises liability lawyer can help determine whether or not you have a valid case.
What You Need to Show a City Is Liable for Public Property Injuries
To have a valid premises liability case of any kind, there are four elements you must prove:
- The property owner had a duty to “exercise ordinary care” and maintain safe premises (as stated in Georgia Code § 51-3-2).
- That duty was breached, leading to a dangerous or hazardous condition.
- Your injuries resulted from the breached duty.
- You have damages because of your accident injuries.
You must be able to demonstrate these points in your case. In Georgia, the burden of proof falls on the injury victim in a premises liability accident. If you can show that the property owner or occupier was negligent in your accident, you can seek compensation for your damages (Georgia Code § 51-12-4).
How Bringing a Premises Liability Case Against the City Works in Georgia
If you do have a valid case, you have the legal right to file a premises liability claim against the city government. However, bringing a case against a government entity is different than bringing one against an individual or business.
Up until fairly recently, governments were completely protected by a legal concept called “sovereign immunity.” Sovereign immunity was established by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1890 to protect government bodies from being sued without their consent—even if they were negligent for injuries.
While sovereign immunity still exists, the state of Georgia waived its immunity in certain injury cases through the Georgia Tort Claims Act of 1992. Before this Act, Georgians did not have a way to sue the state (or state employees) in civil court.
Exceptions to Sovereign Immunity
Under the Georgia Tort Claims Act, the state of Georgia can be held liable for negligence in some situations. There are also certain differences between filing a claim against the government versus other personal injury claims:
- To apply, the state official’s or employee’s negligence must happen within the scope of their duties or employment.
- You must provide a “notice of claim” to the government of your intention to file a claim.
- You cannot recover more than $1 million for a single injury accident, and you cannot recover punitive damages.
The individual state employee or official cannot be sued personally, but the injured person can file a claim against the government agency where the negligent employee works.
Filing a Claim Against a City Versus the State
The above criteria specifically reference the state government, but the same rules generally apply to cases against a Georgia city. However, the notice of claim deadline is different:
- For a case against the state, you must file a notice of claim within one year of your premises liability accident.
- If you are filing a claim against a city government, you have only six months from the date of your injury to provide a notice of claim.
There are also a couple of specific situations where sovereign immunity is waived for Georgia cities. A city may be found liable if:
- If the city was negligent in making sure public areas remain safe and someone is injured because of defective streets or sidewalks or
- City employees did not properly perform their ministerial duties
Damages You Can Claim for Public Property Accidents
If a city government is liable for your injuries, the damages you may be able to claim include:
- Medical bills
- Prescription medications
- Physical therapy or other long-term treatments
- Lost wages
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
As mentioned above, you cannot seek punitive damages in a case against a government entity.
Bringing a case against a city government is rarely easy, which is why you’ll want to work with an experienced premises liability lawyer. Don’t assume that you don’t have options just because the liable party is a city. If you suffered damages because of the city’s negligence (or a city employee’s or official’s negligence), you should not have to pay for those costs.
Talk to a Georgia Premises Liability Lawyer for Free Today
John Foy & Associates is here to help if you suffered an injury on public property in a Georgia city. We can look at your case and discuss your options—starting with a completely FREE, no-risk consultation. To get started today, call (404) 400-4000 or contact us online for your FREE consultation.