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Can You Sue Governments In Pennsylvania?

April 07, 2022

Recently, the bridge in Pittsburgh collapsed while carrying a Port Authority bus and several vehicles. After the collapse, the bus was hanging off the bridge while several vehicles plummeted to the bottom of the ravine. Four people were taken to the hospital after the crash, and investigators say it will take anywhere between 12 and 18 months to determine how the collapse occurred.

Pictures were quickly posted to Twitter, showing the bridge had been in decline since at least 2018. Still, the mayor said the bridge was inspected in September of 2021 and a number of improvements were made two years ago, including repaving the bridge and replacing some of the steel beams. The inspection report included a rating of “poor” for many aspects of the bridge. Now, many of those accident victims may be wondering if they can sue the government entity responsible, and it may be possible.

Governmental Immunity

While the state is protected by sovereign immunity, which bars many lawsuits being filed against state authorities, local municipalities are also afforded some protection under the law. Under the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act, individuals cannot file a lawsuit against local municipalities, with some exceptions. These exceptions include:

  • Operation of a motor vehicle
  • Care, custody, or control of real property possessed by the local government
  • Care, custody, or control of the personal property of others possessed by the local government
  • Care, custody, or control of traffic controls, trees, and street lighting that creates a hazardous condition
  • Dangerous conditions of streets
  • Dangerous conditions of sidewalks
  • Dangerous conditions of utility service facilities
  • Care, custody, or control of animals

When an injured person brings a lawsuit against a local municipality under one of the above exceptions, they must provide written notice of their intentions within six months of the date of the injury.

Limits on Damages Available from Local Municipalities

Under the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act, there are limits on the damages accident victims can receive when filing a claim against a local municipality. The limit on damages is $500,000 for an accident victim or for one single accident. Damages for pain and suffering are also limited to either death or a permanent dismemberment, permanent disfigurement, or the permanent loss of a bodily function when the dental and medical costs exceed $1,500.

Our Car Accident Lawyer in Philadelphia Can Help with These Complex Claims

When a government entity has caused an accident that resulted in injury, it is often possible to sue for damages. However, these claims are incredibly complex. At van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim, our Philadelphia car accident lawyer can help you overcome the challenges these claims present so you recover the full settlement you deserve. Call us today at 215-515-6892 or contact us online to schedule a consultation and to obtain the sound legal advice you need.


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