Getting damages for an injury caused by a government entity can be a bit trickier than recovering damages from a private citizen. This difficulty stems from a legal concept called “sovereign immunity.” Sovereign immunity is what prevented people from being able to sue the king in the old days. Basically the idea was that the king could do no wrong. He was immune from being held liable for his actions. That idea was passed on the United States. For quite some time, you could not sue the government. Today we have the “FTCA” (The Federal Tort Claims Act), this federal statute outlines exceptions and conditions under which sovereign immunity can be breached and citizens can therefore, sue the government. The FTCA only applies to the federal government, state and local governments operate on a different set of rules.
If you were to get into a car accident with a postal worker, or with an FBI agent, you could hold their employer liable for the actions of their employer through respondeat superior. This theory can hold true under the FTCA even when the employer is the federal government. That means that if the employee was negligent while in the course and scope of his or her employment, and it caused an injury to another, that victim will likely be able to recover against the federal government. Many claims are made against the federal government each year, and each year the government pays out millions in damages to get rid of those claims. When you have a car accident claim to file against the federal government, the FTCA will typically require you to file the appropriate paperwork with the appropriate agency before you will be allowed to file your claim in court. Because it is a case involving the federal government, if you follow the administrative guidelines and reach the point where you are allowed to file, you must file in a federal district court that has proper subject matter jurisdiction and venue over the parties and the matter.
Although the FTCA does not apply to state and local governments, many of the governing principles are the same. In most cities and in most states, you will be required to file a complaint with the appropriate governing body and allow them time to make a decision before you can sue them in a state court such as your local small claims court. Unfortunately, these municipalities and their internal offices can take several months before they reach out to you with a decision. Those administrations can either accept or deny your claim. If they deny your claim, or just don’t pay you the amount you believe it is worth, you typically can sue them at that point.
So when you have a car accident claim against a government entity, your claim will likely not be precluded as long as you jump through the many hoops that are placed in front of you. It is hard enough to get a reasonable settlement in a car crash claim against a private party with good insurance, when your claim is against a government entity, there is very little chance that you will come away feeling fairly compensated without getting a lawyer involved. If you have a claim against a government body against the city of St. George, the State of Utah, or the federal government, call a local car crash attorney right away.
This article is offered only for general information and educational purposes. It is not offered as and does not constitute legal advice or legal opinion. You should not act or rely on any information contained in this article without first seeking the advice of an attorney.