While it isn’t impossible, successfully suing the government isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do. That includes local outfits like town and country as well as state and federal. Most government entities enjoy a level of immunity, but what if you’re in a car accident involving a government vehicle?
What if someone you know is killed in one of these crashes? Normally, you could rely on legal aid like this law firm for wrongful death claims in the Bay Area. Does the same apply in this scenario? It’s a question worth asking. Law Office of Matthew L. Sharp said here’s what you need to know about car accidents involving government vehicles.
Understanding Sovereign/Governmental Immunity
While the term might flip back and forth, sovereign or governmental immunity is interchangeable. It generally means that officials are exempt from certain legal ramification while working in the line of duty. These fall under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA).
Within the FTCA, there’s a limited waiver on immunity for negligence. The limitation occurs when a private person is liable to the claimant under the laws where the negligence took place. That’s more than a little vague and the laws surrounding car accidents aren’t any clearer.
Immunity and Vehicle Accidents
Accidents are generally an exception to immunity, holding the government liable. Being struck by an emergency vehicle, for instance, isn’t always grounds for immunity. That includes fire trucks, cops cars, and ambulances in the line of duty. Though these vehicles do abide by different laws.
Non-emergency instances, like public work vehicles owned by the city, usually fall outside of immunity as well. All of these scenarios, however, can vary from one state to the next. Proving fault for government agencies also comes with a higher threshold than another citizen.
For emergency vehicles responding to a situation, their duty generally excuses most negligence. Without their lights or sirens on, however, they were negligent toward public safety. Situation involving government workers like the USPS are much easier to prove.
How to File a Claim
Unlike regular accidents, you need to file what’s known as an administrative claim with the correct government entity. While timeframes vary, states often provide between 30 and 180 days to do so. If you miss the deadline to file, you won’t be able to seek compensation.
Most agencies provide the forms for you to fill out, which must be returned to the clerk’s office for that agency. Claims often ask for a specific dollar amount, which means you’ll need to know the exact total of the damages you’re seeking.
The office/agency can then accept or deny your claim. If the choose to deny, you can sue them in court over the damages. The timeframe for filing a lawsuit is also mentioned in the letter containing the decision.
These are often complicated and challenging lawsuits, requiring expert legal aid to litigate. There are also additional technicalities and procedures that must be followed in court. Make sure to find an attorney or legal team with prior experience suing the government. While seeking compensation is challenging in these scenarios, it isn’t an impossibility.