Did you recently suffer harm in a car accident that involved a government entity in some capacity? You might have a claim against the government if the accident was due to something that was the government’s responsibility, like a broken traffic light. Winning a claim against the government is tough, but it is possible in certain situations with the help of a knowledgeable car accident lawyer.
In countless scenarios you can hold the government liable for a car accident.
Here are just a few examples:
Filing a claim against a government entity after a car accident is not the same as filing a claim against another driver or their insurance company. Here are the key ways that government claims differ from standard car accident claims:
One of the first differences you’ll encounter when filing a claim against a government entity is the strict requirement to provide notice of your claim. It’s a legal requirement with a deadline that’s usually between 30 to 180 days after the accident, depending on the jurisdiction.
In your notice, you must typically include specific details about the claim, such as the accident date, location, and circumstances. You’ll usually want to include a description of the injuries and damages you’re claiming, too.
Failure to adhere to the appropriate filing deadline or to include all necessary information could result in the dismissal of your claim before it even gets started.
Unlike in the standard car accident claims process, where you might simply contact the insurance company, claims against government entities often require you to complete specific forms.
These forms are often detailed and require information not typically necessary in regular insurance claims, such as a precise legal theory of why the government is liable.
Correctly completing these forms is essential because any errors could delay the process or lead to the denial of your claim. This is where the help of an attorney can make all the difference. Your attorney can identify all necessary documents and forms for your claim and fill everything out while you focus on recovery.
If you do not settle your government claim during the administrative phase, you might decide to take your claim to court. If you do, you’ll find that the timeframe for initiating a lawsuit against a government entity is usually much shorter than it is for suing a private party.
Oftentimes, you’ll have just six months to a year to file a lawsuit against a government entity. Waiting too long to sue could mean losing your legal rights to seek compensation, no matter how strong your underlying case might be.
Another major difference is that many government entities have limits or damages caps on how much money you can recover from your accident claim. These caps can limit the amount you can recover for certain losses, such as pain and suffering, and they often apply no matter how severe your injuries are.
If the accident happens in an area with a damages cap for government claims, it could affect the amount of money you can claim for your losses. So, even if the total amount you are due exceeds the cap, you cannot recover more than the maximum amount allowable by law.
Sovereign immunity is a legal doctrine that says you cannot sue the government without its consent. While many governments have waived this immunity to some extent for car accident claims, many restrictions and conditions are still in place.
For instance, the government could enjoy complete immunity for certain types of incidents or levels of negligence, which could make it more difficult for you to prove your case.
The government will likely investigate your claim differently than an insurance company would in a standard car accident claim. Government investigations could involve different government agencies and often take more time.
For instance, a government entity may conduct its own internal investigation rather than relying on police reports.
The government might also have different standards for what constitutes sufficient evidence to support your claim. This could lead to delays and potentially a less favorable interpretation of the facts, as the government might be more focused on defending its interests than on being scrupulously fair.
Understanding how the government will handle your claim can prepare you for what information you must provide and what to expect during the investigation.
Finally, insurance coverage for government vehicles does not always work the same way as it does for private vehicles. The government might self-insure, which means it handles claims and payouts directly rather than through an insurance provider.
This could affect how negotiations play out, the amount of compensation available, and the overall strategy for pursuing your claim.
Yes. When dealing with a local government entity, such as a city or town, you often have to file a claim directly with the city clerk or other local office.
In some cases, you might even need to file with the specific department responsible for the issue that led to the accident. These entities often have their own forms and deadlines, which are usually quite strict.
You typically need to file with the state’s treasury or risk management department for state government claims. The state will have its own set of forms and procedures, and the timeframe for filing a claim can differ from that of local governments.
Some states may limit how much compensation you can seek.
Filing a claim against the federal government follows a different set of rules under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). You would need to file a Standard Form 95 to start the claim process. This form asks for detailed information about the claim, and you must file it within two years of the incident. Each step of the process with the federal government is more formal and complex than filing with local or state government entities.
Whether you have a claim against a local government, the state, or the federal government, you need and deserve professional representation. A lawyer will know all the requirements and details necessary for each type of claim.
To determine which government entity is liable after a car accident, you must look at several factors.
First, consider the location of the accident. The local city government might be responsible if it happened on a city street. The state’s transportation department could be liable for accidents on state roads or highways.
And you can hold the federal government at fault if the accident involved a federal government vehicle or it occurred on federal property, like a national park.
Next, look into what caused the accident. If a poorly maintained road or a malfunctioning traffic signal was the cause, the entity in charge of maintenance – often a city or state public works department – could be liable.
If the driver of a government vehicle, like a postal truck or police car, caused the accident, the specific government agency that operates the vehicle is likely responsible.
Even if you’re reasonably sure which entity to hold accountable, you should contact a lawyer for professional assistance. They can investigate who is in charge of the area or the vehicle that caused the accident. This way, you make sure you’re filing a claim against the right government body.
Solid evidence is particularly important in government liability claims.
The best way to support your claim is to work with a seasoned personal injury lawyer who can identify, preserve, and present useful evidence, such as:
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