Accidents involving government agencies occur all the time. However, these entities are typically protected from lawsuits under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. So, what options do you have when a law enforcement officer violates a traffic rule and rear-ends you? What happens if a state-run medical facility misdiagnoses you, causing irreparable damage to your body? Or what if you work in a United States Postal Office and fall through a broken wooden step on a stairwell?
The above are some common questions asked by injury victims. Local, county, state, and federal governmental bodies are typically protected from lawsuits, but many of these entities have enacted laws that subject them to legal action if the entity itself acted in a negligent manner, leading to a personal injury.
Meaning of Sovereign Immunity
Some governmental agencies and employees enjoy a status called “sovereign” or “governmental” immunity. However, over the past years, certain amendments have been made to the laws making it acceptable to sue a branch of the government in specific cases.
In recent years, there have also been amendments that clearly favor government employees who may be responsible for a vehicle accident.
The government-employed vehicle driver may be protected from litigation, which leaves you in the unfair position of paying medical bills due to an injury caused by someone else’s negligence. Further, the special limits applicable to compensation from a government vehicle accident case may not be sufficient to pay for the complete extent of financial damages suffered by the victim.
The word “may” is the operative word in such cases. If your case is strong enough, a government entity can be held responsible for your losses, just like a regular car crash lawsuit. It will, nevertheless, likely be quite challenging to recover damages from the government.
Personal Injury Claim against the Government
Lawsuits against government entities are usually complicated and necessitate a deep understanding of the law as well as an understanding of stringent deadlines and filing requirements. If there is one misstep in pursuing your claim against a government entity, it could prevent you from recovering compensation for any injuries you have endured, including property damage and physical harm.
A majority of government entities have their own procedures, processes, and regulations that must be followed to obtain favorable outcomes in a claim. According to Alabama law, individuals who have sustained an injury due to the recklessness of another person usually have two years to settle their personal injury claim or file a case in the appropriate court.
However, the statute of limitations is reduced if a government entity is involved. In addition, there are stringent notice and other procedural requirements that must be followed. It is crucial to identify all possible defendants at the outset of the case.
Alabama Government Tort Claims: Sovereign Immunity
Alabama law allows the submission of a claim against a governmental entity or its employees for personal injuries or property damage due to negligence on the part of the governmental entity or its employees. The claim must refer to a legal action performed on the part of a governmental entity or employee undertaken in the scope of their duties.
In case the injury or property damage resulted due to unlawful action, the plaintiff can bring a suit only against the individual(s) responsible for the injury or property damage, and the governmental entity would not be accountable.
Example: Government Employees Causes Car Wreck
If Susan, who works as an engineer with an Alabama City Planning Department, ran a red light on her way to a jobsite and caused a crash, the city could be responsible for the personal injuries and property damage caused by her.
If Susan stopped for a few alcoholic beverages and became inebriated before heading to a jobsite and caused a car crash, then the city can claim sovereign immunity. Susan undertook an unlawful action and was not performing in the scope of her duties when she got drunk on her way to the jobsite.
In the above case, the injured parties would have to sue Susan personally to seek compensatory damages. During the course of a trial, it will be determined whether or not Susan was acting within the realm of her duties.
Speak to a Skilled Personal Injury Lawyer Today
If you or someone you love has been injured due to recklessness on the part of a government agency, it is important to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer to review your case and go over your rights and legal options. In such cases, the technical requirements are stringent, and each government entity case is full of processes and procedural steps that need to be followed. A denial of your claim may result from the inability to follow proper protocol.
The seasoned personal injury lawyers at Burge & Burge have the knowledge and resources to pursue these types of claims successfully and recover maximum compensation on behalf of victims. To schedule a no-charge consultation with one of our attorneys, message us online or call our office today at 205-251-9000.