Auto accidents happen every single day. In a typical situation a driver of a vehicle collides into another vehicle and this causes a collision. Following the collision, the negligent driver’s insurance will most likely handle the damages and injuries caused by the crash. However, what happens in a situation where the collision occurs with a federal, state, or local government vehicle? The handling of damages and injuries may be quite different in this case. In the majority of jurisdictions, a legal concept known as “sovereign” or “governmental immunity” will be recognized. Many drivers are completely unaware of this legal concept and it is important to be educated on the subject.
Governmental immunity means that the government is immune from claims against it, even if the claim is based on the negligent acts of a government employee. Even in situations where the government would be liable if it were a private individual, immunity typically applies. The immunity exists in order to prevent people for suing the government for some loss that would be paid with taxpayers dollars. Nevertheless, the government may choose to give a person who was injured by a government employee the right to sue by waiving said immunity.
Many jurisdictions have passed the Tort Claims Acts, which gives people injured in certain ways advance permission to sue the government for their losses. Due to the fact that auto accidents occur so frequently, a common provision of many Tort Claims Acts is a condition which allows people hurt in a crash to sue. However, even if the lawsuit is permitted, it works differently than a typical collision case because Tort Claims Acts frequently have strict and specific notice requirements that must be met., particularly if the vehicle belongs to the federal government.
There is also a differentiation between a “regular” collision that involves a vehicle owned by the government versus a collision that involves an emergency vehicle like a fire truck or police car. The Tort Claims Acts makes it difficult to sue for injuries suffered in a crash with an emergency vehicle because they want to make sure that this act does not prevent people responding to an emergency from doing so. Finally, the Tort Claims Acts sometimes allows drivers to sue for injuries that are caused by dangerous road conditions. Regardless of the particular situation, it is imperative for an experienced attorney to handle any negligence claim involving someone working for the government.