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"SignsIn Georgia and throughout the United States, governments have “sovereign
immunity” for what they do. Under “sovereign immunity”,
a governmental entity cannot be sued even when its actions have harmed
someone. The rule has exceptions, and in this legal blog entry, I will
be talking about an exception for car wrecks that are caused because a
city neglected its streets and roads.

As an Atlanta, Georgia, car accident lawyer, I represent
personal injury clients who have been hurt in car accidents and who have filed personal injury
lawsuits in Georgia. My clients wound up in car wrecks because a Georgia
city let a stop sign fall down, let bushes grow up and block roadway signs,
left a huge hole in the road after construction, etc. Another vehicle
may have been involved in the wreck, but the Georgia city’s own
neglect helped cause the wreck to happen. For example, even when a driver
has been cited for violating Georgia’s failure to yield statute,
the driver may have failed to yield because the yield sign had fallen
down, or because the visibility was so poor that the driver did not know
he needed to yield.

Georgia municipalities, or cities, do not get sovereign immunity if they
are negligent in constructing or maintaining their roads and streets:

A municipality is relieved of any and all liability resulting from or occasioned
by defects in the public roads of its municipal street system when it
has not been negligent in constructing or maintaining the same or when
it has no actual notice thereof or when such defect has not existed for
a sufficient length of time for notice thereof to be inferred.

O.C.G.A. § 32-4-93(a). “Stated positively, ‘municipalities generally have a ministerial
duty to keep their streets in repair, and they are liable for injuries
resulting from defects after actual notice, or after the defect has existed
for a sufficient length of time for notice to be inferred.’ Bush
v. City of Gainesville, 105 Ga. App. 381, 383 (124 SE2d 667) (1962).”
Roquemore v. City of Forsyth, 274 Ga.App. 420, 423, 617 S.E.2d 644, 647 (2005).

Furthermore, the plaintiff in a Georgia personal injury lawsuit does not
have to show that the city had notice if the jury can reasonably infer
that city’s employees themselves caused the problem in the roadway:
“[w]here an injury is caused by the act of a person, acting under
the authority of a municipality, in [making a repair to a sidewalk or
in failing to take appropriate safety measures ancillary thereto] so as
to render reasonably safe the use of the sidewalk . . . the municipality
is chargeable with knowledge thereof, and no notice to it need be shown,
such notice being necessarily implied, as the acts of its agents are the
acts of the municipality.”
English v. City of Macon, 259 Ga.App. 766, 767, 577 S.E.2d 837, 838 (2003). In the case of City
of Vidalia v. Brown, 237 Ga.App. 831, 833, 516 S.E.2d 851, 853 (1999),
the court held that “a city is liable for defects in streets and
sidewalks negligently caused by its own agents or employees.” When
the road defect is “caused by strangers or forces of nature”,
as opposed to the city’s own employees, then the city is liable
where it had notice of the defect and yet had done nothing about it, or
“where the defect had existed for such a length of time that it
would be reasonable to conclude the city should have learned of the defect
and exercised ordinary care to remove it”).

So in order to prove the city was negligent, the plaintiff and I, as the
plaintiff’s Georgia personal injury lawyer, must show that:

a) The city was negligent in constructing or maintaining a road; —
OR —

b) The city had actual notice that a problem had arisen; — OR —

c) The problem or danger had existed for a sufficient length of time for
the jury to infer that the city had notice of the problem; — OR –

d) The city’s own employees created the problem or danger.


Lee’s peers have named her a Georgia SuperLawyer every year for two decades.