Government Vehicle Accidents
If you or a loved one was involved in a car accident, you may live with extensive injuries and damages. While no amount of compensation can undo your emotional duress and physical harm, it can help speed up the recovery process and make it much less stressful. In a typical injury case, you can pursue that compensation via a claim against the at-fault party. However, what happens when the at-fault party is a government entity? Can you file a car accident claim against a government employee for damages?
Filing a Car Accident Claim Against a Government Entity in Utah
Government personnel are human, too, and just like you, they can cause accidents that result in severe personal injuries. When a government worker does cause a vehicle accident that upends your life, you can file a claim against the employing entity. However, your path to recovery may look drastically different than if you were to pursue a claim against another civilian.
Most states — including Utah — maintain strict processes, procedures and rules for suing government entities. If you unwittingly violate those rules or procedures, you may harm your case, if not forfeit it entirely. For this reason, it is crucial that you work with a legal team that has experience with government vehicle accident claims, and that can support you from the initial filing stage to the final resolution.
At Siegfried and Jensen, we make it our mission to uphold the rights of injured parties and their loved ones, regardless of the adversaries. Though government entities do have extensive resources at their disposal, and though they often have teams of attorneys on their sides, we approach cases against them with the utmost confidence and determination. With our decades of experience, intimate familiarity with the court system and extensive knowledge of the law, we serve as formidable opponents to our defendants and competent advocates for our clients. If you are serious about recovering the maximum amount of compensation for your or your loved one’s injuries, enlist the help of our team in your legal battle.
Government Immunity and Vehicle Accidents
Many people believe that all government entities enjoy absolute immunity across the board. This assumption is likely in place due to the existence of sovereign immunity and governmental immunity laws, which do protect government entities, agents or actors against legal action in certain situations. That said, neither sovereign immunity nor governmental immunity laws apply in government vehicle accident cases.
In addition to sovereign immunity laws, the federal government maintains what is known as the Federal Torts Claims Act. The FTCA of 1946 provides a legal means by which individuals who suffered a loss at the hands of a government agent or actor may pursue compensation. Though the FTCA does provide some exemptions, it generally allows individuals to pursue monetary damages from the United States in situations where, if the government were a private party, the courts would hold it accountable for damages that are the result of a wrongful or negligent act, or in light of an omission.
Not only does the FTCA work in citizens’ favor but also, but so too does Utah law U.C.A.63G-7-301(2)(h)(i). Per this law, Utah residents may sue government entities or agents for damages that stem from personal injuries or property damage if the accident that caused the personal injury or property damage is the result of negligence. This holds true even if the negligent act occurred while the government agent was performing his or her job. For instance, if a mail truck driver hit your vehicle while he or she was delivering mail, you can sue the postal service for resulting damages.
Rules for Filing a Motor Vehicle Accident Claim Against a Government Entity
While you can sue the government for a motor vehicle accident injury, doing so is more complex than if you were to sue a private party. This is because there are strict rules in place regarding how you may initiate a claim, by when and even how much you may recover in damages. An experienced government vehicle accident lawyer in Utah can help you understand these complex laws and navigate the claims process in a way that positions you for utmost success.
Statute of Limitations on Claims Against Government Entities
The statute of limitations refers to the timeline in which you have to file a legal claim. In most cases, the statute of limitations is a hard deadline. If you miss the filing deadline, you forfeit your right to pursue legal action.
In a typical car accident case, you have four years from the date of the collision to file a claim for compensation against the at-fault party. The four-year deadline applies when your claim is for accident-related injuries. If you hope to recover compensation for property damage, you typically have three years to file a claim.
In claims against the government, the statute of limitations is much shorter. Per Utah Law, you have just one year to file a notice of claim against the government agency that employs or employed the at-fault party. If you fail to file a claim within 30 days of the expiration of the statute of limitations, you lose your right to compensation entirely. For this reason, it is crucial that, if you or a loved one was involved in a crash with a government vehicle, you contact an attorney right away. Even if you are unsure if you have a case, a skilled lawyer can assess the merits of your case and let you know whether you have one. If you do, he or she can help you do what is necessary to get your claim started ASAP.
Process for Filing a Claim Against the Government
Though relatively straightforward, filing a claim against a government body is slightly more involved than filing a claim against a civilian. In addition to meeting a stricter deadline, you must also do the following:
- File a notice of a claim before filing the claim itself
- Include in the claim a brief statement of facts, the nature of the claim, an overview of the damages you incurred and the name of the government employee
- Sign the notice of claim
- Deliver the notice of claim by hand, mail or email and retain a copy of the claim and/or proof of delivery
- Wait for the government to respond to your claim within 60 days
You may not pursue further legal action until you receive a response from the government entity.
Recovering Damages From a Liable Government Entity
If you are successful in your claim for compensation against a government entity, note that state law limits how much you may recover. Regardless of the extent of your damages, you may not recover more than $553,500 for a single occurrence. If you and another party sued the same government entity for the same accident, the law limits your damages to $1,107,000. The law limits judgments for property damage to $221,400 per occurrence. You may not pursue punitive damages against a government entity.
Get Help With Your Government Vehicle Accident Claim
Pursuing and recovering damages against a government entity is no easy feat, but it is not impossible. With the right legal team on your side, you can assert your rights against the at-fault party and protect your interests in both negotiations and court. For the experienced and aggressive representation you need at this difficult time in your life, contact Siegfried & Jensen by phone or via our online contact form today.