Suing the Government

A personal injury lawsuit can be filed against a government entity; it is especially important that you speak with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after you sustain your injuries. There are special rules which apply to filing a lawsuit against a government agency; if these rules are violated, you may lose your right to recover any damages from the government.

There is a different procedure for making a claim against the government for personal injuries, as opposed to a private party defendant. In most states, there are Tort Claim laws regulating claims against the government. These laws generally require that you file a claim with a government office quite quickly after you sustain your injuries. The statute of limitations which applies to other civil suits does not apply to the government; thus, if you live in a state with a two year statute of limitations (e.g. you must file your personal injury lawsuit against a private party within two years of sustaining or discovering your injury) but a ninety day period to file a government claim, the ninety day time limit will control your personal injury claim against the government. If you try to file your claim late, you risk losing any damages you might have been able to recover from the government defendant.

As with any other personal injury lawsuit, you can only successfully sue a government entity for your personal injuries if you can prove that the government is somehow responsible for your injuries. As you now know, you will need to move very quickly in filing your government claim. You and your personal injury attorney will have to decide together whether the government is a potential defendant and file a claim before you have the opportunity to fully research the strength of your case. The government may be clearly responsible (a city trash truck rear ends your car) or its involvement may not be as direct (a city engineer designed the intersection where your car accident occurred.) Again, it is extremely important to quickly but thoroughly analyze your claims against the government with your personal injury attorney.

The claim you file with the government must set forth the reason you think the government is responsible for your injuries; for example, you might file a claim in a slip and fall case in which you allege that the government knew a section of the public sidewalk was dangerous, was unreasonable in its failure to remedy the condition, and you were injured because of the sidewalk's condition. The government will then decide to either grant your claim or deny it. If the claim is denied, you and your attorney can file a suit against the government and any other defendants in civil court. The denial of your claim is a prerequisite to the filing of this civil suit. After your lawsuit is filed, the case against the government defendant will proceed as against any other defendant, although the government defendant may be entitled to certain immunity defenses.