If you are walking on a sidewalk and suffer a fall or are a victim in a car accident due to a faulty signal, it may be obvious that the person liable for the injury is the government entity that was supposed to be maintaining the walkways and roadways. The question is, "Are you able to file a personal injury claim against a government entity?"
While decades ago, municipal, state and federal entities would protect themselves against the risk of personal injury claims through the use of sovereign immunities, changes to the laws have now made it possible for an injured party to seek financial damages, under certain circumstances.
What is "sovereign immunity"?
Sovereign immunity was a protection that governments enjoyed that prevented them from being liable for injuries and protected them against possible lawsuits. Throughout the years government sovereign immunities have been reduced and are now limited to certain types of claims.
Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA)
The FTCA was enacted in 1946 and allows for individuals to bring lawsuits against the government for injuries caused by the negligence of an employee that was operating within the realm of their employment duties. Employees are found to be acting in the scope of employment if they are serving in a capacity for the government and have been authorized by supervisors to perform their duties. Claims may also be filed against a government for negligence or omission caused by a government contractor if their duties should have been monitored by a supervising government entity.
Pennsylvania law regarding suing the government
Under Pennsylvania law, you are allowed to sue the government for acts of negligence that would fall under the same guidelines as seeking personal damages against a negligent individual. This negligence is limited to certain types of injury claims that can be filed in lawsuits against the state.
Types of claims that can be filed under the Pennsylvania Sovereign Immunity Act
- Medical malpractice - You can sue a government hospital or medical facility for malpractice, including the administration of vaccines.
- Car accidents - Motorists or pedestrians who are injured can file a claim if the accident is the fault of a government employee who is driving on government business at the time of the accident.
- Premises liability - You may sue for a slip-and-fall injury on government property, if the fall was due to negligence on the part of a property manager under government control.
- Negligent road maintenance - Injuries caused by pot holes or other poor road maintenance can be filed as a personal injury claim against the government if the government was responsible for the roads maintenance at the time.
- Control, care, and custody of animals or personal property - If you become injured due to a government employee or agency's negligence regarding storage or control of property or animals in their possession you may sue the government for damages.
Important thing to note when filing claims against the government
When seeking damages against a government employee or agency, there are a few important points to remember.
- Filing Procedures - Written notice must be given to the government entity before a lawsuit is filed. Failure to notify them in writing will probably result in dismissal of your claim.
- Filing deadlines - Claims against the federal government must have the written intent to file no later than two years after the injury. For claims against Pennsylvania state employees, written notice must be given within six months of the original injury date.
- Claim amounts - Government claims may have monetary caps on the amount of damages that can be sought based on the amount of the government's liability.
Why seek out legal counsel?
When filing a personal injury claim against the government, there are many issues to navigate. Retaining legal counsel will help ensure you meet all the filing deadlines and requirements, as well as protect your rights. If you need more information on whether or not your claim falls under filing requirements, contact an attorney today.