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Texas capitol building dome, surrounded by other buildings
December 26th, 2023

How Can I Sue a Local Government for a Premises Liability Injury?

When you are injured on someone’s property, there is a possibility that you could file a premises liability claim against them to make up for your financial losses due to injury. But what if this was government property – are you still able to file a claim? Our personal injury team explains how you can sue a local government in Texas for a premises liability injury.

Categories of Visitors

For premise liability claims, the property owner’s duties directly relate to the visitor’s status. Texas law specifies that visitors will fall into one of three following categories.

Invitees

Invites are guests who visit a property with the owner’s full knowledge and for the benefit of both parties. One example of an invitee would be a customer at a store. For government property, this could be a citizen entering a city council meeting or a driver entering the DMV for license renewal. The government has an obligation to keep the area clean and free of hazards.

Licensees

A visitor would qualify as a licensee if they are on the owner’s property for the visitor’s personal benefit or the benefit of someone they know. Salesmen are a perfect example of this concept. The owner in this scenario is required to refrain from injuring the licensee through willful conduct or gross negligence, as well as to warn the licensee about any dangerous conditions they are aware of.

Trespassers

A trespasser is someone who visits a property without the owner’s knowledge, permission, or lawful authority. As with the other scenarios, the property owner must still refrain from knowingly allowing the trespasser to fall victim to negligence. Even still, the property owner may owe a greater duty to the trespasser if they are a child. Trespassing onto government property might be a crime in certain cases.

Can I Sue the Local Government for My Premises Liability Injury?

While it is certainly more common for individuals to bring premise liability cases against private property owners, you can also sue the local government for their failure to maintain public property. However, it should be noted that suing a Texas local government is more complicated than pursuing a typical personal injury claim. Texas municipalities are only liable for personal injury, death, or property damage when those injuries are caused by:

  1. A municipal employee operating a motor-driven vehicle or motor-driven equipment. It should be noted that in some cases, the municipal employee could also be held personally liable.
  2. The condition or use of property that a private person would otherwise be held liable for.

Suing a municipality also comes with additional restrictions on the timeline in which you can pursue a claim under the Texas Tort Claims Act: the state requires you to inform the government of your intent to sue six months in advance. However, local municipalities are able to enforce their own deadlines. For example, major cities like Dallas allow 90 days from the date of injury to give notice of an injury claim, while other cities have deadlines as restrictive as 45 days.

Talk to Schechter, Shaffer & Harris if You Wish to Sue a Government Entity for a Property Injury

Due to the difficulty in properly securing damages from municipal entities, you should consider hiring a team of experienced attorneys to help you pursue your premise liability claim against a local government. Contact the team at Schechter, Shaffer & Harris today to get started.

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