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Can You Sue the Government for a Crash Caused by an Icy Road?

Wisconsin gets its fair share of snow and ice during the winter, and while the state is better prepared than most for winter weather, not all roads are properly treated. While it’s true that governmental bodies are responsible for maintaining public roads, it’s also generally accepted that keeping ALL roads in safe condition simply isn’t possible.

Because of that, it’s very difficult to file a successful injury claim against the state, city, or town you live in if you have an accident on an untreated icy road. However, you CAN potentially file a claim if something the local government did contributed to your crash in a significant way.

Dangerous Conditions Could Be Grounds for a Lawsuit Against the Government

If the city’s actions or inactions directly created dangerous conditions and you ultimately crashed, you may be eligible for compensation.

This could include snowplows creating massive snowbanks that limit visibility, or incomplete road repair work that damages your tires or brakes, resulting in a crash. In addition, some crashes may be caused by government employees or contractors themselves, including road crew workers, repair workers, and utility workers. These workers are responsible for driving and behaving safely when traveling between worksites, and when they fail to do so, they should be held liable.

Why Is It Hard to Sue the Government?

Even if you think the city is at fault for your crash, suing the government can be difficult. A critical concept to understand is “governmental immunity,” a legal principle that often shields government entities and their employees from lawsuits. This protection is based on the idea that allowing excessive legal action against the government could hinder essential public functions.

Thankfully for injury victims, there are exceptions to this rule, particularly if the accident was caused by negligence that falls outside the scope of normal protections. Still, holding the government accountable entails complicated procedures with extremely strict deadlines.

Given the complexity of governmental immunity and its implications when there is a crash, it’s highly advisable to consult with a knowledgeable attorney as soon as possible if you find yourself injured and believe a government worker or branch may be at fault.

How Long After My Accident Can I Sue the Government?

Suing governmental bodies has a very short statute of limitations. Unlike personal injury lawsuits against individuals, which give victims three years to act, injury lawsuits against the government in Wisconsin have a statute of limitations of just four months. That means you need an experienced Green Bay auto accident lawyer on your side right away.

What Evidence Do I Need to Sue the Government?

Considering the complexities introduced by governmental immunity, it’s crucial to build a strong case by documenting as much evidence as possible. Here are key steps in that process:

  • Photographic Evidence: Take comprehensive photos of the accident scene from multiple angles. Capture the positions of the vehicles, any visible damage, road conditions, traffic signs, and signals. If there are any skid marks, debris from the accident, or injuries, ensure they are also photographed.
  • Witness Information: Gather contact information from any witnesses to the accident. Witness accounts can be invaluable in providing an independent perspective of the events leading up to and during the accident. Note down names, phone numbers, emails, and addresses.
  • Medical Documentation: Seek medical attention immediately after the accident, even if injuries seem minor at first. Medical records serve as a crucial piece of evidence, documenting the extent and nature of injuries sustained. These records can establish a direct link between the accident and your injuries.
  • Official Reports: Obtain a copy of the police report filed for the accident. Police reports often contain important information such as the officer’s assessment of the accident scene and any citations issued. This report can provide an authoritative account of the accident.
  • Record Your Experience: Keep a detailed journal of your experiences following the accident. Document your injuries, medical treatments, any pain or discomfort, and how the injuries impact your daily life.
  • Preserve Physical Evidence: Safeguard all evidence, including damaged personal property, clothing, and any other physical evidence from the accident. These items can sometimes offer tangible proof of the accident’s impact.

Note that an experienced attorney can provide further guidance on effectively gathering and preserving evidence.

Contact Brian Hodgkiss for a Free Consultation

Got questions about a winter crash that wasn’t your fault? Contact Brian Hodgkiss Injury Lawyers today for a free consultation. We’ve built decades of experience fighting for injured Wisconsin residents’ rights, and will work tirelessly to win you the compensation you deserve when you hire our firm, even if we have to challenge the government.

Originally published January 20, 2021. Updated December 18, 2023.

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