Recovering for Injuries Caused by the Government
We’ve all been driving or riding on the streets of Atlanta, when all of a sudden—BADONK!—you drive through an enormous pothole. Maybe you got a flat tire, or your alignment was knocked out of place. Maybe you got lucky and escaped without any property damage at all. While driving into an unseen pothole is never a pleasant experience, the consequences can be far worse. Driving through a pothole or surface depression while riding a motorcycle or bicycle can result in devastating injuries and can even be fatal. Knowing what to do following an injury caused by the government, whether county, city, or state, is critical to your recovery.
To recover under any theory of negligence, there must be three elements present: (1) The person, company, or governmental body that caused your injury must have owed a duty to protect you. (For example, a duty must exist to keep the roads in repair—it does, but we’ll get to that in a minute.) (2) The at-fault party must breach that duty, and, finally, (3) that breach must have caused your injuries—whether you were physically hurt, or your tire was flattened.
In Georgia, our local governments are responsible for keeping the public roads safe. This duty is created by statute. For example, the statute governing municipalities says that a city shall be liable for injuries caused by defects in the public roads where the city had actual notice of the defect or the defect has existed for so long, that the city should have known about it. Georgia courts have found as little as 3 weeks to be enough to charge the city with constructive knowledge.
Okay, so you’re riding down an Atlanta street. Your front tire dips into a pothole and you suffer an injury. You seek the appropriate medical treatment. What do you do now? Speak with an attorney as soon as possible. Generally, in Georgia an injured person has 2 years from the date of an injury to pursue a claim. However, when you’re dealing with the government that period is significantly shortened. If the at-fault party is a county or state, you only have 12 months from the date of the injury. If the at-fault party is a city, you only have 6 months. Additionally, there are a series of steps that must be strictly followed to properly notify the government of your claim. (See chart below)
In light of the short time frame to pursue your claims, the best thing to do is promptly contact an attorney who has experience in dealing with claims against the government to help navigate the complex process. At Fried & Bonder, we have experience representing individuals injured on state and municipal roadways in Georgia. If you, a friend, or a loved one has been injured on a public roadway, please give us a call for a free consultation – (404) 995-8808.