I sue for a living. I say that with pride. I help injured folks get compensation from wrongdoers. But when the wrongdoer is the Government, it gets tricky. And when I say “the government”, I mean not just “THE” Government, but all the cities, towns, counties, school districts legally deemed subdivisions of the State of New York. On the road to victory against such defendants lies a minefield of bombs.
The procedural requirements for suing the government are rigorous. On the way to the finish line, government lawyers will be watching for your mistakes. But not just watching. Slung across their wool suit jackets, they carry a quiver packed with sharp arrows, legal defenses that are available only to government entities.
Why is suing the government so hard? Because the legislature has deliberately set up an obstacle course between the injured victim and government money.
Here are some examples of how the government makes it harder to sue them than a private entity:
- Tripped on a defect on a municipal sidewalk? To hold the municipality liable, generally you need to prove that someone had WRITTEN to the municipality complaining of the defect before you tripped there. (Who does this? No one.). A verbal complaint ain’t enough. There is no such requirement if the owner of a walkway where you tripped is a private company.
- Got into a car accident when a police officer negligently directed traffic at a busy intersection? You will have to show that he was not exercising his “discretion” when he made the mistake. That’s hard to do. Almost everything he does out there is considered “discretionary” under the law. But if you are injured by a private citizen directing traffic at a private event, it doesn’t matter whether he was exercising “discretion”; his employer is liable for his mistake.
- Got malpracticed in a State-owned hospital? Didn’t realize you were malpracticed until a year later? Now you want to sue the State for medical malpractice? It may be too late. You were supposed to serve them with something called a “notice of intention to file a claim” or a “claim” within 90 days of the medical procedure. But if it was a private hospital, you don’t have to serve a notice of intention or anything except the lawsuit within three years.
These are just a few examples. Believe me, there’s a lot more to it!
I have become adept at weaving my way through the government lawsuit minefield. I know how to avoid the arrows government lawyers fling at me. It’s not because I’m a genius. It’s because for more than a decade now I have been charged with the daunting task of reading EVERY published New York personal injury case brought against governmental entities. Each year, I then produce a report summarizing my findings, which I share with lawyers all across New York State. I then travel across New York State lecturing to other New York personal injury lawyers about the new cases, and what they teach us about how to successfully sue government and avoid the traps. Mostly, we are learning from other lawyers’ mistakes. It’s an incredible learning experience.
This year, my report is done, and I am about to hit the road. Here’s my Upstate schedule:
September 4 – Albany
September 5 – Syracuse
October 18 – Rochester
October 19 – Buffalo
November 1 – Ithaca
On the road!
I am honored that the New York State Trial Lawyers Academy has kept choosing me, year after year, for well over a decade now, to read all New York personal injury cases brought against government and distill their wisdom to my fellow New York State personal injury lawyers. And even though my lecture tour is only once a year, I love getting calls from personal injury attorneys from around the State of New York all year long about the subject.
My law firm and I are dedicated almost exclusively to getting fair compensation to injured victims of the negligence of others, including negligence by governmental agents such as a police officer, a school district teacher, a County highway engineer, or a municipal ambulance driver. Yes, the law is trickier than when a private person or company causes the harm. But the challenge is invigorating.
Why do I love suing government? When I was about eight years old, my father bought me a portable basketball stand with adjustable height. He at first lowered it so that I could almost touch the rim. After five minutes this nonsense, I said, “dad, set it at ten feet. I’m a big boy”. Yes, I have always loved challenges.
I haven’t changed a bit. Set the rim higher!
Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org I’d love to hear from you!
Syracuse NY Personal Injury Lawyers
Michaels & Smolak, P.C.