Can a Government Entity Be Responsible for a Slip & Fall Injury?
November 17, 2023 | Personal Injury
A government entity could be held responsible for a slip and fall injury, but these claims are complicated. Filing a personal injury lawsuit against a government agency does not follow the exact same steps as a traditional personal injury lawsuit in Washington. Here, we want to discuss the scenarios where a government entity could be held responsible for a slip and fall injury, as well as the steps to take if you need to file a claim.
How Could a Slip and Fall on Government Property Occur?
Slip and fall incidents can occur anywhere, even on government property. While you can probably think of some government property areas where a slip and fall can occur, such as at a courthouse or town hall, there are likely many other areas you have not thought about that are actually under government control. For example, individuals can sustain slip and fall injuries on public sidewalks, at dog parks, inside publicly funded recreation areas, and more.
Slip and fall incidents can occur due to a wide variety of reasons, including wet floors that have not been attended to, pedestrian walkways or stairways in disrepair, debris inside pedestrian walkways, uneven sidewalks or floors, and more.
How Do You Sue a Government Entity?
A government entity could be responsible for a slip and fall incident, but only if it can be shown that the entity or an employee with the entity knew or should have known about the hazard and failed to remedy the situation or failed to warn others of the potential hazard.
In additional personal injury lawsuits, injury victims are able to file a claim in civil court against an alleged negligent party. However, injury claims against government entities in Washington are handled differently. Claims against the state of Washington must be filed following the guidelines in Revised Code of Washington section 4.92.100. These rules waive the sovereign immunity typically afforded to the state and allow claims to arise if an injury occurs due to the negligent actions of a government employee.
Any claims brought against the state government must begin with the injury victim or their attorney filing a written notice of claim with the government entity. After a claim form has been filed, the injury victim is required to wait 60 days before filing an actual lawsuit in court. During this time frame, the government entity will review the claim and decide whether or not to approve it. If they deny the claim, the individual can file a lawsuit. We strongly encourage any injury victim who may have a claim against a government entity to work with an attorney who can fill out the appropriate forms properly.
Injury claims to a government entity in Washington must be filed within three years from the date the injury occurs.
Claims Against Local Governments
A separate law covers the process for filing injury claims against local governments in Washington (RCW section 4.96.020). In general, the same rules apply for claims against local governments as they do for claims against the state government. Every local or municipal government will have its own rules regarding filing a notice of claim, and your Seattle slip & fall attorney will need to examine the rules set forth by the specific government entity involved in your injury.