What Kind of Lawyer Do You Need to Sue a City?

If you want to sue the city, you'll need a plaintiff's civil injury (personal injury) lawyer.

You don’t need to hire a special kind of lawyer in order to bring a legal claim against the city - you're looking for a plaintiff's injury (personal injury) lawyer. But you might want to consider hiring a personal injury attorney who has experience bringing similar claims against the same municipality that you’re looking to hold responsible for your injury – so you’ll want someone local.

From a procedural standpoint, the kind of case you're talking about is not a "lawsuit" -- at least, it won’t start out as one. You cannot simply file a lawsuit against a government agency or government employee, the way you would a private citizen or business.

Special Rules for Lawsuits Against a City

Cities, counties, and other governments are free to set the rules under which they can be held liable for causing injuries. As a result of that freedom, most municipalities have put strict procedures in place for a claimant to follow before he or she can get compensation for an injury. You usually need to file a claim within a short amount of time after your accident or injury -- 30 to 180 days in most cases. The specific time limit is set by the city or county ordinance, or sometimes by state law, depending on where you live.

What do you need to include in the claim (also called a "notice of claim" in some places)? The answer depends on the rules in place in the city or county. You may also need to file your claim on a certain form.

The rules are not especially complicated (though they may restrict your legal options), but it helps to have an attorney that knows his/her way around these types of claims.

Your First Steps

Your best first step, if you think a government agency might be responsible for causing your injury, is to contact the clerk’s office for that agency and ask about the process and requirements for filing an injury claim.

Or, if you’re fairly certain about the government’s liability and your injuries are pretty serious -- you were in a car accident where a city bus ran a red light and hit you, for example --  you may want to contact a local injury attorney who has experience bringing injury claims against the city government. Chances are, you’ll be able to discuss your case and your options without paying any up-front fees.         

For everything you need to know about these kinds of claims, check out our Claims Against the Government section.

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