Can someone sue the city if they were injured due to debris on the sidewalk?

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Can someone sue the city if they were injured due to debris on the sidewalk?

3 nights ago my friend and I were skating back from a friend’s house. We were skating in the road because the sidewalk was littered with sticks and cracks that the city is supposed to maintain. We were stopped by 2 police officers who told us to skate on the sidewalk; both times we explained the stuff in the sidewalk made it dangerous. Well my friend fell and fractured her collarbone and is now unable to work or do much of anything. Are we eligible to sue for medical and punitive damages?

Asked on July 21, 2011 Florida

Answers:

S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

Prior to suing the city, the city may require that an administrative claim be filed.  When the administrative claim is denied, which is usually the standard procedure, then a lawsuit can be filed.  Since the lawsuit would be for negligence, there would not be any punitive damages.  Punitive damages are for intentional, malicious acts.  Don't miss the filing deadline for filing the administrative claim against the city or the subsequent lawsuit against the city for negligence may be barred.

When your friend completes her medical treatment and is released by the doctor or is declared to be permanent and stationary which means no further improvement is anticipated, she should obtain her medical bills, medical reports, and documentation of wage loss.  Compensation for the medical bills is straight reimbursement.  Compensation for the wage loss is straight reimbursement.  The medical reports will document the nature and extent of the injuries and will be used to determine compensation for pain and suffering.  Compensation for pain and suffering is an amount in addition to the medical bills.

Prior to completing medical treatment and being released by the doctor or being declared permanent and stationary, it would be premature to file a lawsuit because your friend would not know the extent of the damages (monetary compensation).  If the deadline for the administrative claim is approaching and she has not been released by the doctor, file the administrative claim to avoid missing the deadline.

As for the subsequent lawsuit, when your friend completes her treatment and is released by the doctor or has been declared permanent and stationary, her claim will consist of the medical bills, medical reports, and wage loss documentation.  It may be possible to settle the case with the city's insurance carrier.  If your friend is dissatisfied with settlement offers from the insurance carrier, file the lawsuit for negligence against the city.  If the case is settled, no lawsuit is filed, but if the case is not settled, the lawsuit must be filed prior to the expiration of the applicable statute of limitations or your friend will lose her rights forever in the matter.

If your friend is a minor, she will need her parent(s) to be appointed guardian ad litem and file the lawsuit on her behalf because a minor cannot sue in her own name.  The same would apply to the administrative claim.


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