Hundreds of government employees are required to drive everyday across the Phoenix metropolitan area as a part of their government duties. These include very visible government vehicles such as police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances, as well as dozens of other cars and trucks driven by all kinds of employees as a part of their daily work. Like other motorists, these government employees sometimes cause accidents due to negligence. However, if you or someone you love is unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident caused by one of these government employees, receiving compensation for your damages, including property damages, personal injury, and wrongful death, can be much more difficult than in a standard automobile accident due to the laws covering government immunity. Receiving proper compensation for your damages is even more important if you are riding a motorcycle and are involved in an accident with a government employee. Property damage to motorcycles can be extremely expensive and motorcyclists are at a much higher risk for traumatic injuries and death in the event of an accident than occupants of passenger cars. Cases involving government vehicles can be extremely complicated, so it is vital that you have an experienced Arizona motorcycle lawyer on your side.
Governmental entities – including cities or towns, states, counties, school districts, and the federal government – are generally protected from lawsuits under a doctrine known as “government immunity” or “sovereign immunity” (these terms are often used interchangeably). However, there is an exception to this immunity "under circumstances where the United States, if a private person, would be liable to the claimant in accordance with the law of the place where the act or omission occurred" (28 U.S.C. S 1346(b)).
One of the most common situations where this exception occurs is in car accidents caused by a government employee. A government entity can be sued for damages in a car accident if:
The vehicle is owned or leased by the government entity
The driver is acting in an official capacity
The driver can be proven to be at fault.
Even in non-emergency accidents, the burden of proof is often higher in cases against the government, and the procedures for filing suit are different than an average case, so it is essential that you contact an attorney as soon as possible after the accident.
Filing a Suit Under Government Immunity Exceptions
To file suit against a government entity, you must file a notice of claim within 180 days of the accident. If you miss this deadline, you may forfeit your rights to collect any damages. In addition, many government entities require you to include a dollar amount for your damages on this claim, so it is very important that you carefully calculate your damages and estimate any future damages that may occur from your injuries. If the government entity denies your claim, you may need to file suit. There is a 1-year statute of limitations to proceed with a lawsuit.