Many clients do not realize that personal injury claims against the government are handled differently than claims against private individuals or companies. There are different rules of procedure and different statutes of limitation that apply to governmental claims, as well as other legal challenges that must be met. If you are faced with a claim against a government entity, be sure to consult with a personal injury attorney with experience handling cases against the government.
Types of claims against the government
As we all go about our lives, we inevitably interact with our local, state or federal government in more ways than we realize. As a result, some accidents occur as a result of the negligence or failures of government employees. For instance, common claims against the government can result from poor maintenance or supervision in:
- Public streets
- Public sidewalks
- Public parks
- Public schools
- Public pools
- Public offices
- Public utilities
Auto accident claims against the government
Probably the majority of municipal liability claims are the result of auto accidents. When you are injured in an auto accident as a result of poorly maintained road or highways, manholes, public construction sites, the defendant would be the government entity that is responsible for maintaining those things. Just as common are collisions with public vehicles operated by government employees.
The process for filing a claim is more complicated
In certain circumstances, a town, city, county or state government can be held responsible for injuries, just as a private individual or business can. The difference is, there are stricter procedures and deadlines that apply to cases where the government is involved. If the required steps are not followed, your claim may be dismissed. Here are some of the rules you need to know.
Shorter statute of limitations on government claims
All civil claims have a statute of limitations period, that is, the deadline for filing a lawsuit for a particular type of claim. This time period generally begins when the injury occurs and ranges from one to six years. However, when the party you are suing is a government agency, the time limits are much stricter. In many jurisdictions, you must file a claim with the government within 30, 60, 90 or 120 days of your injury. Some states have different time limits for claims against a city, town, or county. So, it is important to know the specific time limit for your claim.
Most states have notice requirements
In most jurisdictions, individuals are not allowed to file a lawsuit in court against a government entity, without first providing specific notice to the appropriate government agency. Each state also has detailed guidelines on how that “Notice of Claim” must be submitted and what it must include. Again, if these requirements are not followed, with regard to the notice of claim, your lawsuit could be dismissed.
The possibility of governmental immunity
Another legal principle that can make claims against the government more difficult, is immunity. There was a time when most government entities could not be sued. Although the immunity governments are afforded is less broad now, there are still many injury claims for which you cannot recover against the government. The extent of immunity available to a government entity depends on the state. Your personal injury attorney will be able to confirm for you whether immunity will bar your claims.
If you have questions regarding government defendants, or any other personal injury concerns, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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