Local Governments and Key Municipal Employees Can Prevent Liability Issues

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2019
municipality and public employee law tips

No local government wants a citizen to suffer a serious injury due to an employee’s negligence. But, these types of accidents can happen because of a faulty sidewalk or unsafe playground equipment, or at a neighborhood event.

It’s the job of local governments and municipal employees to address potential risks before harm comes to others. It is also important to take care of these issues before litigation happens. This can be difficult for some municipalities because they consider costs and safety alike.

Most municipal officials and employees know their actions may have a negative effect on the city’s proposed fiscal budget. But, protecting the safety of citizens and neighbors should be their first priority. Here is how local governments and key municipal employees can help prevent liability issues.

Inspect and repair sidewalks

All local governments should use an inspection program that grades all sidewalks in town. This will help determine which communities need immediate maintenance service. It is especially important to inspect highly-congested areas of town like business districts, schools, and churches. Records should include both citizen complaints and written inspection results.

If your city is in an area where winters are cold, it is best to figure out who handles maintenance as well as snow and ice removal. Municipalities should also ensure that all sidewalks meet ADA requirements.

Inspect parks and playgrounds

Parents and nannies tend to assume that municipal parks and playground equipment is safe for their children to use. To make sure these areas are safe, local government agencies need to inspect all parks and playground equipment on a regular basis.

It’s important to make sure all equipment is in compliance with local guidelines. Doing this may call for follow-up visits to confirm repairs are complete. Each inspection report should provide important information on the condition of playground equipment and the field surface of the park.

Approve event permits

All local governments must provide permits for outdoor parties, festivals, parades, firework shows, and other events. But, each scheduled event can add potential liability. Local authorities must determine who assumes the potential risk before agreeing to a permit request. Officials often need a third party to sign an agreement which sets forth their level of liability and proof of insurance before an event can occur.

It is important that municipal employees follow and enforce strict guidelines within their communities. All neighborhood committees will have to follow these rules before applying for an event permit. The following are some restrictions that can help prevent potential issues with city liability.

  • Municipalities need to inform emergency operators which streets will be closed during an event. This will prevent any possible delay in responding to 911 calls by allowing the operators to use alternate routes to their destination.
  • If alcoholic beverages are going to be consumed on site, then a liquor license must be obtained before an event permit can be authorized.
  • If live music is going to be performed, then the final act must be over by 10 PM.
  • Signatures from the majority of residents in a neighborhood could be required before any events are allowed that might disturb the peace.

Investigate liability issues the right way

Officials should take the time to gather information and records during an investigation of a liability issue. This can include witness accounts and pictures. As public servants, their job is to fix a problem rather than commit to some form of compensation for an incident.

Government officials can provide immediate help by showing empathy and listening to the concerns of residents. It’s important for citizens to remember that no government official will admit guilt during the course of an investigation.

Certain government agencies should engage in constant communication with those affected by negligence. It’s their responsibility to help citizens stay in contact with the right parties. Other government agencies can provide contact for indirect parties like home renovation companies. After an accident, it’s wise to keep in communication with citizens by providing updates on what’s happening on the municipality’s side.

What else can municipalities and employees do to prevent liability?

External factors can give local governments difficulty in protecting their own interests. Tort immunity aids local governments by protecting them from liability for damages. Municipalities are also working with attorneys to help them with safer policies and procedures. Attorneys can help protect local government officials, entities, and public employers by offering many other services. These include helping to handle civil complaints, labor law violations, litigation, and even healthcare compliance.

Do you need an experienced attorney?

If you would like to learn more about municipal and local government liability, contact the Municipal Law team at Brown & Fortunato P.C. today. Our attorneys provide services in many areas including civil service, litigation, and managed care contracting. You can reach us at (833) 228-6300 or Contact Us via email for more information about our Practice Areas.