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Suing the federal government in a premises liability claim

Numerous premises liability claims are filed against the government each year. Sometimes these events relate to a defective roadway or sidewalk. For example, maybe a traffic light malfunctions or a tree has grown to obscure a traffic sign and the government didn't do anything to fix the problem. In these kinds of situations -- when a California resident is hurt -- it could give rise to a premises liability matter.

If the injury relates to an accident on federal property, then the matter will fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Tort Claims Act, which went into effect in 1946. Before this act went into effect, the federal government was largely immune to personal injury, property damage and wrongful death lawsuits. Today, however, the FTCA gives citizens the ability to sue the government when they are hurt by the actions (and failures) of federal employees. Those actions and failures, for example, could give rise to premises liability issues.

Let's say there is a giant pothole on a federal interstate roadway. This pothole is dangerous and could cause a serious accident. The federal employee who fails to fix the pothole would primarily be the one who committed the negligence concerning the failure to fix the issue. Through the legal concept of "respondeat superior," the federal government -- which controlled and employed the individual -- will be financially liable for that person's negligence and failures.

California residents who believe they have viable claims against the federal government for its failures and negligence under the FTCA should keep in mind that statutes of limitation will apply to the cases. What this means is that plaintiffs only have a two-year time period within which they must file their claims, or else they will be forever barred from doing so.

Source: FindLaw, "Premises Liability Claims Against the Government," accessed July 15, 2016

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