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Who is responsible if you are injured falling on a public sidewalk in Indiana?

On Behalf of | Mar 9, 2023 | Personal Injury

Can You Sue the Government in Indiana?

In all fifty states, a property owner is required by law to maintain reasonably safe premises in order to reduce any risks to those who enter the property. If you are injured because an Indiana property owner was negligent, promptly contact an Indiana premises liability attorney.

Retailers, restaurants, hotels, and even homeowners may be sued if a person is injured on their properties because the owners were negligent. However, what if you’re injured at a public library or a public park? What if you’re injured because you slipped and fell on a public sidewalk?

Who may be held liable if you are injured on public property? Can you sue the government, and if so, how? What are your rights if you’re injured on public property because a governmental agency or government employees were negligent? Keep reading for the answers you may need.

If You Sue the Government in Indiana, What’s the First Step?

If you are injured in Indiana because of a dangerous condition on a municipal, county, or state property, the government agency that is responsible to manage and care for that property may be held liable for your personal injury, but you can’t immediately file a personal injury lawsuit.

Historically, the “sovereign immunity” doctrine made it almost impossible to sue Indiana’s state government, and while that doctrine was partially abolished in this state by Indiana’s Supreme Court in 1972, there are strict legal and procedural requirements for suing a government agency.

If you slip or trip and fall on a public sidewalk because that sidewalk was not properly maintained (snow and ice were not removed, for example, or cracked pavement caused you to trip and fall), call an experienced, knowledgeable Indiana slip-and-fall lawyer at once.

What is the Indiana Tort Claims Act?

A slip-and-fall attorney will investigate exactly how – and how seriously – you were injured, review any evidence and medical records, question any witnesses, and protect your rights while guiding you through the legal system and the complicated process of suing a government agency.

The process of bringing an injury claim against a government agency – as well as the amount and type of compensation you may recover if your injury claim prevails – is a different procedure from filing a premises liability claim against a private individual or business.

The Indiana Tort Claims Act (ITCA) spells out the requirements for suing a government agency in this state. Your first step is filing a “Notice of Tort Claim.” (“Tort” is simply a legal term for injury or a violation of rights). Ask your attorney to help you prepare your Notice of Tort Claim.

What Are Indiana’s Deadlines for Taking Legal Action Against Government Agencies?

For injury claims against the Indiana state government or a state government agency in Indiana, you must submit, within 270 days of the date you were injured, a Notice of Tort Claim to the Indiana Attorney General’s office.

For claims against county or municipal governments or agencies, you must submit, within 180 days of the date you were injured, a Notice of Tort Claim to the local agency you are suing and to the Indiana Department of Insurance Political Subdivision Risk Management Commission.

After you file the Notice, you must wait 90 days before you may file a lawsuit. During that time, a settlement may be offered to you. Seek advice from your Indiana premises liability attorney before you accept any settlement offer.

What Lawsuits Are and Are Not Allowed?

The ITCA generally allows lawsuits that are based on hazardous conditions at government properties, medical malpractice by government health care providers, traffic accidents with government-owned vehicles, and other injuries caused by a government agency’s negligence.

In most instances, under the Indiana Tort Claims Act, you may not be able to sue a government agency in Indiana for injuries:

  •  caused by poor road conditions due to weather
  •  linked to emergency communication systems
  •  sustained on unpaved trails that lead to recreational locations
  •  caused by a third party or sustained on private property

If Your Injury Claim Goes to Trial

If you slip or trip and fall on a public sidewalk, and your injury claim against a government agency goes to trial, your Indiana slip-and-fall lawyer will tell the jury how you were injured, how extensively you were injured, and ask the jury to order the payment of your compensation.

In any premises liability case, if you have been injured because a property owner or a property manager was negligent, in order to recover compensation for your pain and suffering, lost wages, medical expenses, and related losses, this is what you and your premises liability attorney must prove:

  •  The owner or manager had a duty of care to keep the property reasonably safe.
  •  The owner or manager failed in that duty because of negligence.
  •  That negligence caused your personal injury or injuries.
  •  You incurred damages that legally entitle you to recover compensation.

The compensation that an injury victim may recover from a government agency is limited to (or “capped” at) is currently $700,000 by Indiana law, and victims may not seek punitive damages (damages intended as punishment) in claims against Indiana government agencies.

A Medical Examination is Imperative

Whether you are injured on public property or private property, if you are injured because someone else was negligent – a private individual, a business, or a government body or agency – your first priority is to seek medical treatment.

If you are not treated for your injury immediately at the scene or at an emergency room, try to have a medical examination within twenty-four hours. A prompt medical examination should uncover any latent or difficult-to-detect injury.

Moreover, without medical documentation, it may be difficult to link your injury directly to a specific incident, and the liable party may claim that you weren’t really injured or that you were injured in another way, at another time and place.

What Else is Important to Remember?

It may be difficult to recover compensation after you’ve been injured, and you’ll need some patience. You will also need the right attorney’s help.

Remember, if you are suing a government agency, there are strict deadlines, so as soon as you’ve been examined and treated for your injury, schedule a no-cost, no-obligation case evaluation with an experienced Indiana premises liability lawyer.

You’ll pay no attorney’s fee upfront, and you will owe no fee to your attorney until that attorney recovers the compensation you are entitled to under Indiana law.