Has Anyone Sued A Municipality As A Result Of A Car Accident? What Was The Outcome & How Long Did It Take?



The Government, including its branches and subdivisions, are generally immune from lawsuits. This is based on the age-old doctrine that the king cannot commit any mistake because whatever he says is law. However, the existing laws and case doctrines have relaxed this rule. The state and any of its political subdivisions can now be susceptible to suits for damages and monetary claims.

Cities and municipalities can be held liable for damages for the death of, or injuries suffered by, any person by reason of the defective conditions of roads, streets, bridges, public buildings, and other public works under their control or supervision. They are not exempt from liability for death or injury to persons or damage to property arising from negligence. Municipal corporations as well as public corporations, such as public works office, municipal health offices, and other similar offices are also liable for the negligence of their employees who are in the discharge of their duties. In addition, private companies, which are contracted by the government to perform governmental or public functions, can also give rise to liability for personal injury if it is proven that such company was negligent in the performance of its duty.

Several personal injury cases arising from car accidents have been filed against a municipality. One notable case involved a driver who suffered multiple fractures in his right arm when he fell into an unmarked and uncovered ditch dug by the municipal public works office. The incident happened on a rainy evening; the driver was on his way home from work when his car fell into a hole in the middle of the road. The driver sued the contractor and the municipality for actual and compensatory damages alleging that there were no early warning devices around the excavated area. The municipality denied liability on the ground that it was the contractor's fault. The court held the contractor and the municipality were both negligent and ordered them to pay for the medical bills and other costs of the injured driver.

Unlike ordinary lawsuits against private individuals or corporation, a case against the government or its political subdivisions is more complex. The plaintiff must first prove that the government entity is engaged in an official function; otherwise it is only the individual officer who will be liable. In other instances proof of official function is dispensed with if the government is engaged in a purely commercial transaction. Performance of purely commercial is a tacit waiver of state immunity. Moreover, when a case is filed against the government and it fails to put up the defense of state immunity, such failure is also considered as a waiver of its immunity. In any case, there must be a notice of the claim against the municipality or office involved. This is a condition precedent, without which no lawsuit will prosper. The claim must first be rejected before a case is filed in court. Other states allow lawsuits to be filed even if there has been no denial of the claim as long as the government fails to act on the claim within a specific period. The usual period is thirty to sixty days. After which a case can be filed in court. The length of the case will depend on the parties but should in no way exceed one year.