If you’re walking down the street and you trip and fall on a poorly maintained sidewalk outside of a city government building, can you sue the city for your injuries? It is possible to sue a city for some types of accidents, but lawsuits against city government are generally more complicated than an injury case would be against an individual. Here are some general tips and information to help guide you through the process of filing a lawsuit against the city.

Filing a Notice of Claim After Injury

In several states, including California, you must file a Notice of Claim with the city before filing a lawsuit. State law determines what must be included in the notice, and also dictates when and how the claim must be filed.
Generally, the notice requires this information:

  1. The amount of damages you’re looking to receive
  2. A description of the injury, in detail
  3. Name and contact information for all people in the accident
  4. A description of what time/day, address, and what happened in the accident

Some states require that the Notice of Claim be filed within a specified period of time after the accident occurs. Other states require only that the Notice of Claim be filed within a specified period of time before the filing a lawsuit. Failure to file a Notice of Claim may result in the case being dismissed entirely, so it is very important to check and make sure you are filing properly within the allotted amount of time.


slip-and-fall-accidents2Preparing Your Lawsuit

Once the city receives a Notice of Claim, they may choose to settle with the injured party rather than engage in a possibly long and complicated lawsuit. It is more common for the city to deny the claim. Once this occurs, the injured person can file a lawsuit against the city for negligence.

In order to make a case for negligence, the injured party must establish all the elements of negligence:

  1. The city’s duty of care for public property
  2. A breach of the duty of care
  3. Proof that this breach is what caused your injury
  4. Description and proof of this injury

It is important to gather as much evidence as possible to support your claim. Examples of good evidence would be photo evidence of the neglected area and injury, witness statements, medical records, bills from treatment of injury, and reports and testimony from doctors who assessed your injury and treated you.

The first and biggest task is to establish that the city owed a duty of care to the injured person. The duty owed depends on many elements including the details surrounding the accident, the legal status of the injured party, and involvement of city employees during the accident.

An example would be that the city does not owe a duty of care to people injured while trespassing on the property, but may owe a duty of care to contractors working on the property.


Claims against a city can be more difficult than a lawsuit against a private party because many states have laws that grant immunity to cities and the employees who work for them for some negligent actions. For instance, if a pedestrian is jaywalking and a police officer hits them while responding to a 911 call, the pedestrian will not likely be able to successfully sue because of the city’s immunity. However, the injured person could prove that the police officer was on duty but was driving recklessly, the city may not be able to protect themselves with immunity.
Filing a claim against the city can be complex and frustrating without the right guidance. If you believe you have a case against a city in San Diego, seek professional support from a lawyer who can help guide you through the process.

Call our San Diego injury attorneys today for your free consultation.