How to Sue a City for Negligence and If You Should



Thousands of people work for the South Carolina government, including cities and counties. Most of us come into contact with one of these people or pass them on the road each and every day. We think nothing of it—until we are injured due to their negligence.


If you are injured by a city employee, you might consider suing and ask how to sue a city for negligence. However, there are certain hurdles you need to overcome. Like other states, South Carolina makes it hard to obtain compensation when a city or one of its employees has negligently hurt you. But with the right lawyer in your corner, you can make a strong case for compensation. Contact Surasky Law to speak with an Aiken, SC personal injury lawyer to learn more.


Understand the South Carolina Tort Claims Act

Generally, states and cities are immune from lawsuits, but the state can waive that immunity. South Carolina has done so in the Tort Claims Act. Section 15-78-40 states that South Carolina and political subdivisions like cities are liable for torts like negligence in the same way a private citizen would be. Section 15-78-50 gives anyone injured by a city or one of its employees acting in the scope of their official duty the right to sue.


However, there are exceptions to this general right to sue. You can find 40 of them listed in Section 15-78-60. We can’t list them all here, but some of the more important include:

  • Snow or ice appearing naturally on a public road, unless the snow or ice was created by employee negligence.

  • Natural conditions on unimproved government property, unless the government has notice of a defect but fails to correct it within a reasonable time.

  • Most workers’ compensation claims.

  • Missing or malfunctioning signs and warning devices, unless the government has notice and fails to correct the problem in a reasonable time.

  • Employee conduct outside the scope of their official duties, or conduct which consists of fraud, malice, or criminal intent.

Meeting with a Personal Injury Attorney to Review Your Case

An attorney can help you understand whether your case qualifies under the Tort Claims Act. Let’s look at some common negligence claims you might bring:

  • A city worker accidentally rear-ends you while driving for their job. In this example, you can sue the city because the worker negligently caused an accident while acting within the scope of their job.

  • The city fails to properly maintain its buildings, and you slip and fall or trip and fall. You can sue the city because they were negligent in the maintenance of their property.

  • The city fails to fix the sidewalk, which is cracked and an obvious hazard. People have complained to the city about the sidewalk, so they have notice but refuse to fix it.

  • You get into an accident because of a missing stop sign. The city has had notice for a year the sign has been missing but they made no effort to replace it.

The above are only a sampling of some of the claims you might bring. There are others. A personal injury lawyer can explain how or why your claim is authorized by the Tort Claims Act.


Discuss Possible Compensation with Your Attorney

The purpose of a negligence action is to make victims whole. Principally, we seek compensation for all your losses, like medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. With some injuries, your losses could exceed seven figures once we factor in pain and suffering.


However, South Carolina has a damages cap of $300,000 that applies in most claims against the state or a subdivision. There are a few exceptions, but this will be the maximum most people can receive.


Filing a Verified Claim for Damages with the City

If you want to settle a claim, you can give the city notice by filing a verified claim for damages. You have one year to file. This notice allows the city to investigate and possibly settle the dispute. The city should have designated an agency or individual to receive these complaints. If there’s doubt as to who to file with, you can file with the Attorney General.


One year is a short deadline. Time can fly when you are struggling with serious bodily injuries suffered in an accident. Ideally, you should meet with an attorney immediately who can draft a verified claim for damages, if that’s the route you want to go.


The city has 180 days to decide whether to settle or reject your claim. If you don’t hear anything in 180 days, then you can treat the silence as a rejection.


How to Sue a City for Negligence in Court

If you submit a claim to the city, section 15-78-90(b) prohibits filing a lawsuit in court until one of three things happens:

  • 180 days have passed since you filed your claim

  • The city disallows your claim

  • The city rejects your settlement offer

You generally have two years from the date of the accident to sue the city. However, if the city rejected your claim for damages, you have three years to file a lawsuit. The clock usually starts on the day of the accident.


South Carolina also tells you which court to file in: the circuit court of the county where the negligent action happened. If a careless employee struck you while driving for their job, then it would be in the county where the accident took place.


Why You Need an Experienced Aiken, SC Personal Injury Attorney

As you can see, the South Carolina law is very detailed. Questions often arise over whether you can sue, or if your accident falls into an exception. Many accident victims are in pain and not prepared to do the difficult work of submitting a verified claim for damages or filing a lawsuit.


We can help. Surasky Law has brought many claims against political subdivisions, including cities. We know how to make a strong argument on your behalf. We can meet all required deadlines and ensure you put your best foot forward.


To learn more, please contact our firm today to schedule a free consultation.


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