If the government has wronged you, you may be able to take them to small claims court. But before you do, there are a few things you should know.
You Have a Right to Sue the Government
You have the right to sue the government in small claims court for damages done to you or your property. The government is not immune to liability. Sometimes, the government may even be required to pay punitive damages. If you think the government has harmed you, you may want to speak to a lawyer to determine if you have a case.
The process of suing the government is different from suing an individual. For one, you may need to file a notice of claim before you can sue a government entity. A notice of claim gives the government a chance to correct the situation you're suing over. Also, you may have to prove that the government was negligent. This may not be easy, but it's worth pursuing if you think you have a strong case.
You may be asked to show that the government acted negligently or intentionally harmed you. Money damages are meant to compensate you for your losses, and so you must be able to show that you suffered some loss as a result of the government's actions.
What Reasons Can You Use to Sue the Government?
There are many reasons why you might want to sue the government. However, there are a few common reasons:
- Breach of Contract - You may have grounds to sue if the government fails to uphold its end of a contract. This often describes when the government fails to provide the services it promised or doesn't live up to the terms of an agreement.
- Negligence - When the government has failed to do something that it should have done, which resulted in harm to you or your property.
- Injury on Government Property- If you have been injured on government property, you may be able to sue the government. For example, if you were injured in a slip and fall accident due to a dangerous condition on government property, you may be able to sue the government for damages.
- Injury due to Government Employee - If a government employee has injured you, and you can show that their negligence caused you harm, you may be able to sue.
How Much Can You Sue the Government For?
The amount you can sue in Small Claims court varies from courthouse to courthouse, but you can usually sue for up to $10,000. People often ask for more than just out-of-pocket expenses. You may also be able to recover punitive damages to punish the government for its actions. Lastly, you can sue to recover compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
How to Prepare for Your Case
You can only file a claim in small claims court against the government if you have tried to resolve the issue through negotiation, mediation, or arbitration and have exhausted all other avenues. You'll want to research your local procedures and laws to see what specific processes your state has laid out. Every state has different rules and regulations, so it's helpful to know what to expect before you file a suit.
You may also want to gather the evidence that supports your claim to help build a strong case. Evidence may include witness testimony, documents, and photographs.
How Small Claims Court Works
Filing in small claims court can be easy, even without a lawyer. In many small claims courts, attorneys are not even allowed to represent parties. Your local small claims court handles cases for smaller amounts of money, usually $10,000 or less.
You can file your complaint in small claims court to start the lawsuit. The court will charge you a filing fee and process the document. Then they (often) will set a hearing date, and you will be expected to be present. If the court rules in your favor, the other party will be ordered to pay you what you're owed.
The basic steps of suing someone in small claims court are simple:
- Fill out the court's paperwork
- File the case in court
- Pay court fees
- Serve court papers to the defendant
- Attend your hearing and explain the reason for suing the defendant.
The process of suing the government can be complicated, but it is possible to get justice if you're willing to do the work. Doing your research and understanding your rights can increase your chances of success in small claims court.