Generally speaking, federal, state and local government bodies are protected against personal injury claims through sovereign immunity. Historically, this meant that individuals could not file personal injury claims or recover damages from government entities for injuries sustained on their property or as a result of employee negligence. Fortunately, there are exceptions to the doctrine of sovereign immunity, and in some cases, individuals can file personal injury claims and receive damages against government entities. Depending on the circumstances, these exceptions may include a personal injury claim against a state park.
Government entities, like other individuals and businesses, have a responsibility to keep visitors safe from harm. When they forego this duty, they are guilty of negligence. For any personal injury claim to be successful, the injured party must prove this negligence existed. And, while in some cases negligence is blatant, after injury at a state park, it may not be so easy to prove.
It is certainly easy to show that a government agency owned and controlled the state park property. However, if an injury was sustained on a natural hazard, receiving damages may be difficult. For there to be negligence, an individual must show that the government agency knew about the hazardous condition and neglected to address it. If a natural hazard was known to the park, but there were no signs posted warning patrons of the danger, the park's negligence may be grounds for a lawsuit.
It may be worth noting that the damages are awarded differently in a personal injury case against government entities than they are for private parties. Damages received by a government entity are limited under a certain cap, while those received from other entities are not.
Despite the fact that there are some exceptions to the doctrine of sovereign immunity, proving negligence at a state park may be difficult if injuries were suffered on a natural hazard. For a successful personal injury claim, injured individuals should consider working with an experienced personal injury attorney.