Can You Sue the City for a Car Accident?

Man holding clipboard while surveying a car accident scene

In West Virginia, sovereign immunity usually prevents people from suing cities for damages. However, you may have an actionable case if you were injured in an accident and can prove the city failed to keep you safe. With the help of a skilled lawyer, you can sue the city for injuries in a car, train, or bus accident involving city employees or due to the city’s negligence. Consult the experienced car accident lawyers at Warner Law Offices, PLLC,  to learn more about your options.

Can you sue a West Virginia city for a car accident? Yes, but only if you can prove that the city violated its duty to keep you safe. You must also meet strict notice requirements and file your lawsuit in time to meet the deadline imposed by the state’s statute of limitations. 

An experienced Warner Law Offices, PLLC, attorney can help with suing a city for negligence. Schedule a free case consultation to learn more about how our lawyers can help.

What Kind of Cases Can I File Against the City?

West Virginia cities are immune from lawsuits under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Sovereign immunity prevents you from suing a city unless that immunity has been waived. 

However, that law waives that immunity and allows you to sue the city in certain circumstances. According to the West Virginia Code, the state permits actions, proceedings, and lawsuits against government entities and officials that affect the public interest. For example, if you were injured by a car or bus accident in a city, you may be eligible to sue the city for damages.

In general, victims can sue West Virginia governmental entities for the following:

  • Motor vehicle accidents caused by city employees: City employees are responsible for driving safely during work hours. If a city driver caused property damage or personal injury during work hours, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the city. This includes city buses operated by the Kanawha Valley Regional Transportation Authority. 
  • Work zone accidents: Cities are responsible for maintaining safe work zones. You can sue a city for work zone accidents by demonstrating that the city’s failure to maintain a safe work zone directly caused your injuries or damages.
  • Property damage: The city is responsible for keeping roads and other public property in shape. You may have a case against the city if a pothole or other hazard damaged your car or caused an accident.
  • Premises liability: You can sue a city if you are injured because it failed to safely maintain government property. For instance, suppose the city failed to mop up a wet floor in a city building and did not install warning signs near the wet floor. If you have a slip-and-fall accident on the wet floor that causes injuries, you may be eligible to file a lawsuit against the city for failing to maintain a safe environment.

West Virginia’s sovereign immunity laws can be confusing. An experienced West Virginia personal injury lawyer at Warner Law Offices, PLLC, knows the laws and can explain the process of suing a city for negligence. Our lawyers can also determine your eligibility for filing a lawsuit against a city.

What Is a Notice of Claim?

West Virginia law requires you to file a notice of claim when suing a city, county, or state government. 

A notice of claim is a form you submit to the government entity that caused your injury. For instance, if a city employee drove under the influence and rammed a city bus into your car during work hours, you would submit a notice of claim to the city employee’s government department or building.  

A notice of claim must include the following:

  • The name and contact information of everyone involved in the accident
  • A description of when, where, and how the accident happened
  • A description of your injuries
  • The compensation you are seeking

You must submit your notice of claim at least 30 days before filing a lawsuit against the government entity. The government will have 60 days to respond to your claim before you can formally file a lawsuit against the city.

The government may also offer a settlement to resolve the claim out of court. Experienced lawyers can determine if the settlement is reasonable. If not, the lawyers can negotiate with the government to secure maximum compensation.

What Is Needed To File a Lawsuit Against the City?

To file a successful lawsuit against the city, you must show the following:

  • The city owed you a duty of care: A duty of care is an obligation not to harm others through inaction. Cities have the duty of care to ensure that sidewalks, roads, and other public areas are safe. 
  • The city breached the duty of care: For instance, the city failed to repair a hazardous sidewalk, leading to a trip-and-fall accident.
  • The city’s breach of the duty of care caused your injury or loss: If your claim arises from the actions or inactions of a city employee, you must show that they were acting in their official capacity at the time of the accident. If the employee was not performing city-related duties or was off-duty, you may fail to establish the city’s liability.
  • You suffered compensable losses due to the city’s inactions: You must identify and calculate the economic and non-economic damages caused by the city’s inactions. You cannot file a lawsuit against the city if the city’s inactions did not harm you.

How Long After a Car Accident Can You Sue a City?

West Virginia has a two-year statute of limitations, or deadline, for filing lawsuits against the city. This means you only have two years after a car accident to file a claim against the city. If you fail to file before this deadline, you will probably lose the opportunity to recover compensation for your damages. However, keep in mind that the Notice of Claim must be filed 30 days before filing suit.  

Two years can pass quickly, especially when undergoing taxing treatments for your injuries. A skilled West Virginia lawyer from Warner Law Offices, PLLC, can handle your case and ensure everything is filed before the statute of limitations.

What Damages Can I Expect From Suing a City?

The damages you can recover from suing a city in West Virginia depend on your injuries. You may receive the following damages after winning a case against the city:

  • Economic damages are quantifiable financial losses caused by a personal injury or death. Examples include medical bills, property damage, lost wages, and caregiver expenses.
  • Non-economic damages are subjective, intangible losses. They compensate you for the psychological and emotional impact of the injury. Non-economic damages include emotional distress, pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and loss of enjoyment of life. You can only recover up to $500,000 in non-economic damages in a suit against the city. 

You cannot recover punitive damages in a suit against a government agency.

Learn More About Suing a City in West Virginia and Surrounding Areas

If you or a loved one was hurt in an accident involving a city or city employee, contact Warner Law Offices, PLLC. Our trusted personal injury lawyers have over 20 years of experience and a proven track record of success. We have won millions for our clients in West Virginia and the surrounding areas, including $13 million for an auto accident. 

Call 304-909-7513 or fill in this online form to book a free consultation. As a full-service personal injury law office, we handle various personal injury cases, including slip-and-falls, car accidents, and medical malpractice.

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Attorney Bobby Warner
Content Reviewed by:
Bobby Warner

Bobby has received many accolades throughout the years from both his peers in the legal community, as well as the media. The National Trial Lawyers association named Bobby a Top 100 Trial Lawyer and he has been selected as a Member of the Nation’s Top One Percent. Additionally, he has been named a Best Attorneys of America by Rue Ratings, which also named Warner Law Offices to its Best Law Firms of America.