Can You Sue a City for Personal Injury?
Can you sue a city for causing your injuries? That’s a question with a complicated answer.
If you are considering a personal injury lawsuit against a city or its employees, the best thing to do is speak with a qualified personal injury attorney about your specific case. An experienced lawyer will look at the facts of your case, let you know what’s possible, and help you decide on the best course of action.
That said, we’ll give a brief overview of this topic in this post. We hope this helps you understand more about personal injury claims against Ohio cities.
Suing the City: Is It Possible?
In Ohio, suing a city government and its employees is more complicated than suing an individual or a business.
That’s because an Ohio law called the “Political Subdivision Tort Liability Act” provides “immunity” for cities and their employees in many cases. This “immunity” means that they cannot be held financially liable in a lawsuit.
The act doesn’t just cover cities. It includes any political subdivision. (You might be wondering what’s considered a “political subdivision.” Under Ohio law, the definition of political subdivision is “a municipal corporation, township, county, school district, or other body corporate and politic responsible for governmental activities in a geographic area smaller than that of the state.”)
Examples of political subdivisions include:
- Boards of education
- Boards of community or “charter” schools
- Boards of park district commissioners
- County housing authorities
- Regional transit authorities
However, the act doesn’t apply to all personal injury or wrongful death claims. Also, there are exceptions. Let’s take a look at them, below.
Exceptions to Immunity
The Political Subdivision Tort Liability Act doesn’t apply to all claims against Ohio cities. You can still sue a city in cases involving:
- Contractual liability (for example, the city breached a contract)
- Employment matters
- Fidelity or surety bonds
- Violations of federal laws or the U.S. Constitution (for example, Civil Rights laws)
The immunity granted by the act also has a few limited exceptions.
First, a city may be liable if its employee caused a person’s injuries through negligent operation of a vehicle, while on the job. (For example, a city employee hitting a pedestrian on a sidewalk because they were texting.)
However, it’s important to note that this exception doesn’t always apply to police officers, firefighters, or emergency medical service workers who are responding to an emergency call. For these workers, the city is not liable for negligent operation of a motor vehicle, unless “willful or wanton misconduct” was involved. (“Willful and wanton misconduct” is an action that is intentional. An example of “willful or wanton misconduct” might be drinking and driving while on the job.)
Second, a city may be liable for injuries caused by employees’ negligent failure to:
- Maintain the grounds of buildings used for “governmental functions.” (These buildings include places like government office buildings and courthouses.)
- Repair or remove obstructions on a public road.
Third, a city may be liable for injuries caused by employee negligence when performing a “non-governmental function.” What is a non-governmental function? Here are a few examples:
- Constructing or operating a cemetery
- Maintaining or operating a utility or sewer system
- Running a hospital
- Operating an off-street parking lot
- Operating a public stadium, auditorium, civic center, exhibition hall, etc.
Finally, a city in Ohio may be liable in certain circumstances written in the Ohio Revised Code.
Proving a Personal Injury Claim against a City
Proving your claim against a city can be tricky. In order to bring a personal injury or wrongful death claim against a city, the court must first determine that the city is liable. If the court determines the city has immunity, the case cannot go forward. Then, you must prove all of the requirements for any other personal injury case. These include:
- Your injury was caused by the city
- The city employee was negligent (or performed willful and wanton misconduct)
- Your injuries caused financial damages (for example, medical bills, lost wages, etc.)
Even if the city is not immune from your lawsuit, you are not guaranteed to win your case. You must still prove your claim in court. That’s why it’s often a good idea to speak with a personal injury lawyer experienced in bringing lawsuits against a city.
A qualified and knowledgeable attorney can help you gather and present the evidence you need to win your case.
Call Casper & Casper Today
If you have questions about suing a city in Ohio, Casper & Casper is here for you. Our personal injury attorneys have years of experience helping citizens in Cincinnati, Dayton, Hamilton, Middletown, and the surrounding areas.
Call us today to discuss your case. We’ll let you know how we can help you get the compensation you need and deserve.