Car accidents are harrowing experiences, and recovering from the damage can be stressful and exhausting, not to mention expensive. While a typical car accident is worrisome enough, what happens if you’re involved in a crash with a government vehicle? While it may sound daunting to file a lawsuit against a government body, it is possible and only differs from a typical civil lawsuit in a few ways. It’s important to understand your rights in these situations and to act quickly. Once you or your loved one recover from any injuries, speak with an attorney as soon as possible to start the legal process.
Key Differences for Suing a Government Body
The first key difference between a lawsuit against another civilian and one filed against a government body is the requirement of filing a notice of claim. Depending on whether you intend to sue a local, state, or federal agency, the window varies. You usually have 60 days from the date of the incident or discovery of injury to send a notice of claim. This claim is to make the government aware of the accident and afford it an opportunity to respond.
In some cases, filing a claim is as far as the process will go. The government will recognize your claim, analyze the evidence, and pay out a settlement in some circumstances, sidestepping the need for litigation. However, this is very rare, and a lawsuit will be necessary more often than not.
Most states, as well as the federal government, have what are known as tort claims acts, and these statutes will have various and specific filing requirements, as well as deadlines that must be met. The process for filing and pursuing a claim will vary greatly, depending on where the accident took place, what type of government vehicle was involved, and the government agency in question. An experienced and reliable personal injury lawyer will be an invaluable asset in these cases. Navigating the deadlines and filing requirements can be tricky for laypeople.
Proving Government Liability
Most government agencies and their employees are protected from liability through a legal concept called “sovereign immunity,” which immunizes these entities from legal recourse. However, the federal government and the governments of every state have some form of legislation that works to circumvent sovereign immunity in certain situations. Again, an attorney will be invaluable to navigating the legal validity of your claim.
There are some situations in which the government entity or employee in question will be considered liable for damages, such as:
- Hazards on roadways
- Obstructions to line of sight that create traffic hazards
- Uneven pavement
- Improperly marked construction zones
- Gross negligence on part of a government employee while performing official government duties
While suing a government entity differs in a few important ways, there are some similarities to typical personal injury lawsuits. First, the need to prove negligence is still vital to a successful claim. In order to prove negligence, you must prove the following:
- The defendant (person or entity being sued) had a duty to act with reasonable care while performing official government duties
- The defendant breached this duty in some way, either by a reckless action or, in some cases, inaction
- The defendant’s negligence directly resulted in the plaintiff’s (the person suing) injuries
As with any other legal issue, your best chance for a favorable outcome is retaining the services of an accomplished and knowledgeable West Virginia injury attorney. If a government entity or employee injured you, it’s important to fight for your rights and not let the thought of a legal battle with the government intimidate you.
Many firms offer an initial free consultation and operate on a contingency-fee basis, meaning you only pay if they win your case.