There are strict guidelines that apply when a person wishes to sue a federal, state, or local government or a government employee for personal injuries. While governmental entities enjoyed immunity from suit under common law, statutes and ordinances have been enacted to limit this immunity. However, governmental entities that allow private individuals to sue them for personal injuries have imposed rigorous notice of claim and other requirements.
Types of Injuries Giving Rise to Governmental Suit
A person may seek damages from a governmental entity for such things as vehicular accidents involving government vehicles, accidents such as a slip and fall on government property, injury occurring through medical malpractice in a veteran’s, military, or government supported hospital, defective street signs, walkways, traffic signals, or roadways, and for violation of a person’s civil rights.
Notice of Claim
Most statutes require that a potential litigant provide the governmental entity a notice of claim regarding his injuries. This must be done within a certain time period following the act giving rise to the claim. The governmental entity then has a certain amount of time in which to allow or disallow a claim. Most governmental entities disallow tort claims as a routine matter.
If a governmental entity allows a claim, then the injured person has permission to sue the entity. If the entity does not disallow the claim within a certain time period, the claim is deemed disallowed. The injured person is then allowed to bring suit.
A notice of claim statute has specific requirements as to what must be in the notice. Typically, a person must give notice as to the acts giving rising to the injury and the specific monetary damages sought.
Federal Torts Claims Act (FTCA)
The FTCA allows the government to be sued under the same circumstances that a private person could be sued for “damage loss, injury or death in accordance with the law of the place where the act or the omission took place.” The FTCA sets a monetary ceiling on the amount of damages recoverable. It was enacted with thirteen exceptions, and further exceptions have been developed through case law.
The “discretionary function” exception is an important exception to the FTCA. This rule restores governmental immunity for uniquely governmental functions and responsibilities, even if a private person could be held liable for those same acts.
Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations applies to suits brought against governmental entities or actors. A statute of limitations sets a legal limit on the amount of time a person has to bring suit. If a person is injured and does not bring a suit for those injuries within the statutory time period, the claim will be barred.
A person who has been injured by a governmental entity or actor may sue the government for those injuries under certain circumstances. While the government enjoys governmental immunity for many acts, the government has abrogated this immunity to a certain extent through various federal, state, and local laws. A person wishing to sue the government must strictly follow the procedures for doing so, including giving a notice of his claim and bringing suit within the applicable statute of limitations.