Why You Need To Specify An Amount Of Damages When Filing A Personal Injury Claim Against A Georgia Municipality
Contrary to the old saying, “You can’t fight city hall,” you actually can sue a municipality in Georgia for negligence. More precisely, if you have been injured in an accident caused by the negligence of a city or one of its employees, you can seek to recover damages under the Georgia Tort Claims Act (GTCA). The Act waives the normal “sovereign immunity” that protects the state and its subdivisions from lawsuit–provided the plaintiff strictly complies with certain rules.
One of those rules requires the plaintiff to send a pre-suit notice to the municipality that they wish to sue. The notice must provide a description of the plaintiff’s injury–including when and where it occurred–and the “specific amount of monetary damages being sought.” Again, the plaintiff must strictly comply with this rule. So if you send a notice to the city without specifying an amount of damages sought, the notice is invalid and your subsequent can be dismissed for failure to comply with the GTCA.
Georgia Court of Appeals Allows Trip and Fall Case Against City to Proceed
But as the Georgia Court of Appeals clarified in a recent decision, City of Suwanee v. Padgett, the notice requirement does not require a plaintiff to make a pre-suit inquiry into the status of a municipality’s insurance policies. This is a trip and fall case. The plaintiff alleges that she was walking down a city-owned sidewalk one day and tripped over a displaced segment of the pavement. The plaintiff subsequently sent the defendant city a pre-suit notice informing it of her injury and her claim for $2 million in damages.
At the time of the accident, the city had an insurance policy with a $1 million “per occurrence” limit. Before the trial court, the city argued this rendered the plaintiff’s notice non-compliant with the GTCA. The city’s view was that the GTCA required the plaintiff to present a claim that the city was actually “capable of accepting.” The trial court rejected that argument, as did the Court of Appeals.
The latter court noted that nothing in the GTCA only requires a plaintiff to demand a specific amount of damages. It does not impose any additional conditions that the amount stated fall within a city’s insurance limits, or even that the city is capable of accepting the demand.
The Court of Appeals further rejected the city’s request to dismiss the plaintiff’s lawsuit on other grounds. Specifically, the city said the plaintiff failed to present any evidence that the city was negligent in constructing or maintaining the sidewalk. The appellate court said that the evidence was still disputed on this point, requiring a jury trial.
Speak with an Atlanta Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you are seriously injured on private or public property, you may have the right to seek damages against the relevant owner. But you should always consult with a qualified Atlanta premises liability lawyer who can review your case and advise you of your options. Contact Shiver Hamilton Campbell today to schedule a consultation.