Visitor Question

Tripped on a Manhole Cover and Broke My Ankle…

Submitted By: Pamela (Wisconsin)

I was at a bar drinking with friends. When I left I was walking across the street when I tripped on a manhole cover that was not level with the road (not put in its place properly). I broke my ankle in two different places and had 8 screws and a plate put in to repair it. Now I’ll have up to $60,000 in medical bills, plus I have been out of work for 3 months.

At the time I was a waitress and I think my days of waitressing are over now because of this injury. Can I sue the city for injury compensation since the manhole cover wasn’t level?

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.


Dear Pamela,

There is an old Latin expression which applies to your case. It is “Rex non potest peccare”. This basically means “The Emperor can do no wrong”.

It meant no matter what the Emperor or any of his agents did they were immune from responsibility, or had “Sovereign Immunity”.

Unfortunately this practice still exists in a diluted form today. Presuming the manhole was on a Wisconsin State Road or Highway, you must seek compensation from the Emperor (the State) by going through a claims process. The Board can award up to $5,000 to any one claim. It can award a greater amount if they file their own petition with the State Legislature.

If you are awarded compensation it will only be for your medical costs, and very closely related out-of-pocket expenses. Unfortunately the compensation will not cover your lost wages or pain and suffering.

An excellent resource for information is There you will find all the information you may need for filing a successful claim in Wisconsin.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Published: April 5, 2012

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