is It Possible to Sue the Government for Personal Injury?
The short answer to the title question is “yes.” You can sue the federal government for personal injury if the negligence of one of its employees or contract workers results in an accident wherein you suffer injury. The same holds true for suing your state for accidents and injuries arising out of the negligent acts of its employees or contract workers.
The Demise of Sovereign Immunity
At the beginning of U.S. history, and for 170 years thereafter, an individual could not sue the government for anything whatsoever. This sovereign immunity doctrine went back to our English roots where a mere citizen could not sue the king and queen — i.e., the sovereigns of the country. In 1946, however, the Federal Tort Claims Act waived the federal government’s sovereign immunity for several kinds of tort claims, including personal injury. Each state passed its own version of this immunity waiver soon afterward.
Per both the federal and state waivers, you can sue the federal government or your state’s government for personal injury if one of its respective employees or an independent contractor working for it engages in negligent behavior during the performance of his or her duties that results in your injury.
Perhaps surprisingly, your state’s rules and procedures for filing a personal injury suit against it likewise apply to any federal suit you bring for an accident that occurred in your state. Generally, this means you can sue for injuries you sustain resulting from any of the following:
- Motor vehicle accidents caused by poor road conditions
- Slip-and-fall accidents on government property
- Any accident caused by a government employee’s breach of the duty of care he or she owed you
Every state has its own statutes of limitations setting forth the time limits within which you must file your specific type of personal injury suit against an individual or your state. If you intend to sue the federal government, however, you must give it notice of your intention to file suit within six months after your accident. The specific notice requirements vary by state, but in general, you must send a Notice of Claim — often by Certified Mail — to each governmental entity or employee you intend to sue, plus your state’s administrative agency that receives all Notice of Claim forms.
Each state sets its own rules regarding what information the Notice of Claim must contain. For instance, Pennsylvania requires you to include not only your own name and address, but also the date, hour and location of your accident and the name and address of each medical care provider who treats you.
Need for Legal Representation
As with any type of personal injury case, you need the advice, counsel, and representation of an experienced lawyer, like a personal injury lawyer from Saavedra Law Firm, PLC, when you decide to sue a government. These lawsuits can be especially complicated and your attorney can guide you through the required process, making sure you don’t miss any crucial deadlines.