Q&A: Fall at a Federal Building – Is There a Basis for a Lawsuit?

A woman on the ground after a slip and fall accident on the sidewalk.

Question: Last Thursday I fell at a federal building in Kingston, NY. I didn’t break any bones but I got quite sick. I have a large bruise on my right arm my knee right is painful. My back is hurting again. In the past I suffered from sciatica. I bumped my head on the right side which left me with such a bad headache and caused my blood pressure to escalate an throw up. They hospitalized me for this. Is there a basis for a lawsuit or not?

Should I Sue the Federal Government in a Slip & Fall Case?

Answer: This fact pattern could justify a slip and fall lawsuit against the federal government. I would need more facts about the accident before I could give you a conclusive legal opinion. Specifically I would need to know more about the location of the accident. Where did the fall happen? Where was the federal building? What was the name of the federal building? Did you slip inside or outside? Did you fall on stairs, a sidewalk, in the foyer? Were there any witnesses? Did you report the accident to anyone, and, if so, to whom and when? Did you complete an accident report? What caused you to fall (i.e. slip on ice, uneven sidewalk, puddle of water, a banana peel)? How long had the dangerous condition existed prior to your accident, if you know? Did you take pictures of the accident?

When selecting a local personal injury attorney, you will want to hire someone who has experience litigating cases against the federal government. The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) will govern some of the procedural aspects of your case, such as the statute of limitations and jurisdiction. Your claim would need to comply with the FTCA and you have 2 years to file Form SF 95.

Third Party Claims in a Fall Injury Case

Another important consideration is that many federal agencies and buildings contract with private vendors for services, such as snow and ice removal or janitorial services. If the private vendor’s conduct was a substantial factor in causing your accident, you will need to file a claim against both the agency and the private vendor. For example, my office is currently handling a slip and fall case for a woman who slipped on ice at a post office located in Esopus, New York. We sued both the U.S. Post Office and the third-party plow contractor.

Many personal injury lawyers prefer cases involving fractured or broken bones because it is easier for them to prove whether the plaintiff suffered an acute or traumatic injury. Basch & Keegan will consider helping people with other types of injuries, such as spine injuries, intervertebral disc injuries, nerve injuries, soft tissue injuries, muscle tears, ligament tears, or tendon tears, concussions, etc. These injury profiles can be harder to prove but very often these other injuries cause more pain and discomfort than a fractured bone might cause.

Our Q&A series features answers from Basch & Keegan attorneys, answering real questions from Hudson Valley residents on Avvo and other sites.