Slipping and falling is an unfortunate incident that can happen anywhere. However, if you sustained injuries from a slip and fall in a government building, the steps to legal recourse differ from those in a regular premises liability claim. Rather than file a personal injury claim with an insurance company, you must follow specific administrative procedures or risk losing your right to compensation.
Texas Tort Claims Act
The main law applicable to a slip and fall on government property in Texas is the Texas Tort Claims Act. The principle of sovereign immunity protects government entities such as state agencies, schools, and county agencies from lawsuits. This legislation outlines specific conditions under which the government waives its immunity and allows for a lawsuit.
Be advised there are monetary caps that apply. The cap for claims against the state is generally $250,000 per person and $500,000 per occurrence for bodily injury or death. It is lower for cities and other local municipalities.
Here are a few of the exceptions to sovereign immunity.
A provision of the Texas Tort Act relates to special defects. These include extensive road obstructions or excavations, which could cause unexpected and unusual dangers. It also applies where traffic signals, signs, or warnings malfunction or are missing altogether.
You Pay to Use the Premises
If you suffer a trip and fall in a government building you paid to enter, the governing entity could have the same obligations as a private business to ensure your safety. For example, the government may waive immunity if you fell while visiting a museum run by the state government.
Negligence by a Third Party
Sometimes, a person or company not connected to the government creates a dangerous condition, leading to your slip and fall. In such a case, you may have the right to sue this third party instead of the government entity.
Federal Tort Claims Act
If your accident occurs on federal property, the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) will likely govern your claim. Like its state-level counterpart, the FTCA specifies the procedures for filing claims against the federal government and limits the types of damages that can be awarded. Under the FTCA, punitive damages are generally not recoverable.
What to Expect When Filing a Claim
The process for filing a claim against a government agency differs from any other type of personal injury claim. The deadlines are shorter and strict. We recommend contacting an attorney from the outset to protect your rights and ensure you don’t miss any legal deadlines.
The Requirement to File an Administrative Claim
Before filing a lawsuit, you must file an administrative claim with the governmental unit you believe is responsible. It is a bureaucratic process requiring detailed information about the accident, injuries, medical treatment received, and any other damages you allege are related. You might be required to sign the administrative claim before a notary public.
Notice of Claim Time Limit
In Texas, the notice of claim must be filed within six months (180 days) after the accident. Failing to adhere to this timeline can result in the dismissal of your claim. However, this time limit might be shorter for some cities and counties.
Investigation and Response
After receiving your claim, the government entity will investigate to determine its merit. They may offer a settlement, deny the claim, or not respond. Depending on their action or inaction you can decide how you want to proceed. Provided your notice of claim was filed on time, you can proceed with a lawsuit under the standard two-year statute of limitations for slip and fall claims.
If your claim advances to a lawsuit, the process will be similar to any other personal injury lawsuit. You can expect formal legal proceedings like discovery, motions, and a trial. You’ll need compelling evidence to prove negligence and recover compensation for premise liability on government property. That could be a complex, time-consuming process requiring solid legal guidance.
You may be entitled to receive compensation for your medical expenses, lost earnings, out-of-pocket expenses, physical pain and suffering, and more. However, punitive damages are not permitted in these claims.
As previously mentioned, there are caps on recoverable damages. These caps can affect your strategy and expectations concerning financial compensation. Therefore, while you may be fully entitled to compensation for your damages, the amount you receive may be limited by law.
Contact a Texas Premises Liability Lawyer
Navigating a slip and fall in a government building is fraught with legal complexities and tight deadlines. Whether your claim falls under state or federal laws, hiring an experienced Texas slip and fall lawyer is crucial.
The legal team at Hartley Law Firm has a decade of experience helping injured victims recover compensation against state and federal government agencies. We understand the nuances of these claims and are here to help. We believe in a client-centric approach that allows you to focus on healing rather than deal with a complicated legal battle. We’ll keep you in the loop from start to finish while fighting to protect your rights. Please contact our office today to schedule an initial consultation to learn how we can help.