Can You Sue the City if a Street Sign Falls on You?

The short answer is, "Yes, you can - but." There are several "buts" to be taken into account. Successfully suing New York City because a street sign falls on you depends on specifics which we will discuss. The important thing is where does the fault for the injury lie? It may be with the city itself, a city employee's actions or inactions, someone totally separate from the city, an Act of God, or even the injured party. The basic fact that determines whether you can sue the city is - who is responsible.

City Government Negligence

The city is responsible for maintaining its property. If a street sign falls and injures you because it was not installed properly or has not been properly maintained, then one could say the city bears some responsibility. Proving poor installation or improper maintenance will be a big part of a successful lawsuit.

A street sign may be, or appear to be, in overall good condition but if it causes injury, there may still be a case. Here are four hypothetical examples:

  • - A sign that was either not erected properly or which has not been maintained properly falls and injures someone.
  • - As part of the Vision Zero Action Plan, road work is being carried out. Construction signs are being placed at, or collected from, the side of the road. A city employee or contractor mishandles a sign, it falls from the truck and hits you. If it can be shown that the employee had not been trained properly to handle the task, had been trained but was not paying attention while performing the task, or if the truck was unsuitable for carrying the number and type of signs, there may be a case to answer.
  • - A city vehicle is being driven carelessly or dangerously, and the driver collides with a street sign which falls and injures a cyclist or pedestrian. This may be an example of negligent or illegal behavior by a city employee.
  • - A city police chase is in progress, but is violating police department regulations. The vehicle being chased collides with a street sign which falls and injures someone. This may also be an incident resulting from municipal regulations being violated.

In these three examples, it may be possible to prove negligence or failure to perform. In such instances it is possible to sue the city.

Two "Buts"

  • It is New Year's Eve, you are out celebrating with friends. You climb onto a traffic sign, swing on it, fall off, the sign follows you down and injures you. As long as the sign was in good condition, it would be difficult to show the city or a city employee is responsible for the injury.
  • There is a storm and a state of emergency has been declared. Strong winds and lightning strikes make venturing outside dangerous. You go out and are struck by a flying street sign. The city would say you have some responsibility for your own safety and venturing out was irresponsible, therefore the injury was caused by your actions plus a random accident caused by an act of God.

In these examples it would be difficult to prove the city bore responsibility for the injuries.

The Takeaway

New York City has responsibilities. To prove a case it is important to show that the city had a duty of care to the injured party, and it failed. If you have been injured by a street sign, or in any other way that may involve NYC's failure to perform, please click this link to contact us, so we can arrange a free consultation.