Injured in a Park? Here's How to Sue - Injured
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Injured in a Park? Here's How to Sue

Parks are great places for a picnic or BBQ, but injuries can and do happen. Tree limbs can fall, children can drown in lakes, and poorly maintained grounds can provide various ways to trip and fall.

So if you're injured in a park, how do you sue? Here's a general overview:

If the Park Is Privately Owned...

If you've been injured on private land, the landowner may be liable for your injuries under a theory of premises liability. Landowners have varying responsibility for dangerous conditions on their properties, based on the kind of person who enters.

Depending on the circumstances, people who set foot on someone else's property can be considered:

  • Invitees. If you've paid to gain access to a private park (like a country club), then the owner has an implied duty to assure the safety of the property.
  • Licensees. If you're a social guest on private land, then the landowner likely owes you a duty of reasonable care with respect to dangerous conditions in the park.
  • Trespassers. If you injure yourself in a private park while trespassing, then a landowner may only be responsible for artificial conditions he or she maintains.

In any of these situations, the owner of the private park can be sued like any other business or individual. Public parks, however, require slightly more finesse.

If the Park Is Publicly Owned...

When you've been injured in a public park, you'll likely have to sue a government entity in order to recover. Injured persons will need to consider the following:

  • Immunity. Government entities are generally entitled to immunity from lawsuits unless a certain procedure is followed. For example, claims for injuries incurred in federal parks will likely need to comply with the Federal Tort Claims Act; state and local government entities have similar rules.
  • Notice. To bypass the government's immunity, you'll need to provide notice of the claim before suing. This may need to be done within months of the injury, so be very aware of deadlines.
  • State approval. Some states must approve injury claims over a certain amount before a city can be sued, or before a cash award over a certain amount can be paid out. So if a falling tree paralyzes you in a public park, state legislators may delay your recovery for years.

Many city attorneys' or city clerks' offices will have forms and instructions for how to file a claim or sue their jurisdiction for public park injuries, but your attorney can help you figure out which documents you'll need to file.

Regardless of who owns a park, if you're injured in one, you can sue and recover.

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