Can You Sue Your City in North Carolina?
Understanding Your Right to Compensation in a Civil Lawsuit Against a Municipality
What happens when a municipality, such as a city or county, is responsible for your injuries or the wrongful death of your loved one? Despite what some people think, you are able to sue a local government when their (or their employee’s) negligence results in your injury or the death of a loved one. Suing a city in North Carolina, however, is rarely clear-cut.
At Riddle & Brantley, we are experienced, aggressive personal injury lawyers that know what it takes to fight and win cases against a government entity. Our firm was founded on the principle that Justice Counts for ALL, which means that every liable party must be held accountable.
Can a City in North Carolina Be Sued?
In short, yes, a city in North Carolina can be sued. Obtaining damages against a local municipality, however, can be difficult. Negligence claims against a government entity are complex, requiring an in-depth understanding of state law and local rules and regulations.
For these reasons, it is always in your best interest to retain an attorney if you were injured on public property or by a government employee. Suing a city is vastly different from filing a lawsuit against a private individual or business. Understanding your rights and responsibilities under the law is the first step to a successful outcome.
What Should I Do First If I Need to File a Claim Against a City?
Following local rules regarding how to file a claim is imperative. In most cases, the initial legal filing is a “Notice of Claim” filed directly with the municipality. Filing this document inaccurately or in an untimely manner may result in your case being dismissed.
Once the city receives a valid notice of claim, they have three options:
- Agree to the claim and pay the damages outright;
- Offer a counterclaim or negotiate a settlement for a lower amount; or
- Deny the claim
As you can imagine, many claims against government agencies either get denied outright or receive a counter offer. If an acceptable settlement cannot be reached, your only option may be to file a personal injury lawsuit against the municipality.
What Do I Have to Prove?
In order to prove that a city was negligent, you must show that the city owed you a duty of care, breached that duty, and that the breach of that duty resulted in your injury. One of the most challenging things to prove is that the city owed you a duty of care.
Cases where you may have a claim against a city include:
- Pedestrian accidents involving a government vehicle, such as a bus accident;
- Slip and fall accidents in or near government buildings; or
- Injuries from construction accidents at city sites facilities
These are only a few of the types of cases that may result in city liability. An attorney can discuss whether you are eligible to pursue compensation based on the circumstances of your case and your injuries.
What Is Sovereign Immunity?
The State of North Carolina and most governmental entities are protected from liability by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Many states, however, have passed legislation waiving or limiting their immunity. North Carolina waives their immunity for certain claims beginning under section 143-291 of the state statutes referred to as the North Carolina Tort Claims Act (NCTCA).
The NCTCA limits the state’s immunity and requires that:
- Most claims against state agencies be filed through the Industrial Commission;
- Claims be brought within three years or within two years of the decedent’s death in a wrongful death claim; and
- There is a $1,000,000 cap on monetary awards
Despite the state’s waiver of immunity in some instances, it is still difficult to bring a case against a government agency. Without the help of a highly-qualified lawyer, your claim will likely be denied.
Does Sovereign Immunity Extend to Local Governments?
In general, sovereign immunity extends to local governments through governmental immunity. As with the state, a person can still sue the city if the municipality has waived their right to immunity. Cities and their agencies can waive their immunity through the purchase of liability insurance or by participation in a local government risk pool.
There are limits within these waivers. For instance, liability insurance may only provide damages up to a certain amount. It is essential to consult with an experienced attorney as early into the process as possible.
Immunity and Governmental Function
Under most circumstances, a municipality or any governmental entity is not responsible for the intentional misconduct of their employees; however, there are exceptions to this rule.
In addition, unlike private entities, which are responsible for acts performed by their employees within the scope of their employment, government entities are only liable for acts if they are proprietary functions and not governmental functions.
Generally speaking, governmental functions are acts performed by governmental bodies for the benefit of the public at large. Proprietary functions are those that are not traditionally performed by a government agency.
What If I Was Partially At Fault?
North Carolina is one of only a handful of states that still follows pure contributory negligence. The doctrine of contributory negligence states that if you are found even 1% at fault for an accident, you cannot recover against another party for damages. An attorney can help determine if you are eligible to pursue a claim against a negligent party.
At Riddle & Brantley, our attorneys have extensive experience defeating contributory negligence defenses. We know the law in North Carolina and are ready to help however we can.
Will I Receive Punitive Damages?
Punitive damages are generally not allowed against a governmental entity.
Request a Free Consultation Today
If you were injured on city property or by a city employee in North Carolina, contact our office at 1-800-525-7111 for a free consultation. Our attorneys have recovered over $600 million dollars for injured parties across the state since 2000 alone (see disclaimer below). Call today to get started.
*** Disclaimer: The results mentioned are intended to illustrate the type of cases handled by the firm. These results do not guarantee a similar outcome, and they should not be construed to constitute a promise or guarantee of a particular result in any particular case. Every case is different, and the outcome of any case depends upon a variety of factors unique to that case.