Personal injury claims against Rhode Island cities and towns

by JOSHUA R KARNS on Jun. 11, 2020

Accident & Injury Personal Injury Accident & Injury  Slip & Fall Accident Accident & Injury  Wrongful Death 

Summary: Rhode Island has special rules that govern lawsuits against cities and towns including those for personal injuries. Rhode Island General Law § 45-15 governs all types actions against cities and towns.

Claims for bodily injuries caused by road defects  

RIGL § 45-15-8 sets out the elements that you must prove to recover money from a city or town for bodily injuries and property damage as a result of a dangerous roadway or sidewalk.  You must prove the following:

  1. You must suffer bodily injuries and/or property damage. 
  2. The city or town must have been responsible for maintaining the road.
  3. There must be a defect on the road that causes your bodily injury or property damage 
  4. The city or town must have known about the defect or should have known about the defect if they had exercised proper care and diligence.   
  5. The city or town must have had the ability and opportunity to prevent the injury or damage with reasonable care and diligence.    

Notice of your bodily injury 

RIGL § 45-15-9  and RIGL § 45-15-10 create notice requirments that you must follow.  If you are injured as a result of a road defect or dangerous condition and plan to seek money from the city that maintains the road you will have to provide notice to the city within sixty (60) days. The notice must include the time, place, and cause of your injury or property damage. Your description of the location of the road defect or dangerous condition cannot be vague and must clearly describe exactly where you were injured and what caused you injury.  The notice must be in writing and signed by the person injured or who owned the property that was damaged and given to the city or town council.  If you fail to provide this notice within sixty (60) days you will be unable to pursue you injury claim in court against the city or town.  If the notice fails to include everything that the law specifically requires it will be considered defective.  If the notice is not sent to the right government official of the city it will be considered defective.  If the sixty (60) days has passed at that point you could be forever barred from bringing it again.     

Maximum recovery limit in Rhode Island 

The maximum amount of money you can recover from a city or town for injuries caused by a road defect is one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000).

Presenting your claim to the city or town council

§ 45-15-5 requires you to first present a notice of your claim to the city or town council. The notice must contain a description of your bodily injuries and other damages, how your injury occurred and how much money you are seeking in compensation. The city or town then has forty (40) days to meet your demand after which time you can file a lawsuit in court. If you file your case without having first presented your claim your case will almost certainly be dismissed from court. 

Personal injuries caused by snow and ice

R.I.G.L. § 24-5-14 requires that cities and towns remove snow and ice to make roads and sidewalks safe and passable.  It does not mean that they are liable for all injuries caused by snow and ice on Rhode Island roads.  The law states that the city or town will not liable unless they had at least 24 hours notice of the snow or ice before the injury occurs.

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