Can I Sue the Government for a Personal Injury?
If you suffer a personal injury from a fall down the stairs or take a header on run-down private property, you know what your legal options are. What happens, though, when your accident occurs on or around a county-owned building or results from the careless actions of a government employee? Everyone says you can’t fight city hall, but shouldn’t you have the right to sue?
The answer is a qualified yes. It is possible to sue the government, but you’re going to have to follow certain guidelines. These will differ in accordance with exactly where your accident occurred. When it comes to filing an injury claim, every city, state, county and federal government stands as an entity unto itself, and each gets to write its own rules.
Personal Injury and the Government
Given the large number of government facilities visited by ordinary citizens every day, the occasional accident is almost unavoidable. The mishap doesn’t have to take place indoors. You could slip on a sidewalk, fall down a staircase or even be hit by a government van while driving your own car or traveling on foot. When this happens, you can sue the government for personal injury or property damage.
Not all such harms take a physical form. A parent can sue the local school district for failing to honor a student’s rights or provide a required service. Government employees can sue for workplace harassment or wrongful termination, and average citizens can bring charges against law enforcement agencies for perceived violations of their civil rights.
Considerations for Filing Personal Injury Claims Against a Government
In days gone by, the legal doctrine of sovereign immunity protected all government agencies against lawsuits of any kind unless those agencies specifically consented to be sued. That doctrine has not entirely gone away. Anyone planning to sue the government will face the specters of:
- Time constraints. In most personal injury lawsuits at the civil level, the statute of limitations can range from one to six years. Unfortunately, far stricter state and local government limits will often force you to file within 30, 60, 90 or 120 days. This requirement can vary from one state to another and even between jurisdictions in the same state. At two years, Nevada’s statute of limitations counts as one of the more generous.
- The notice of claim. Before filing a lawsuit in most states, you must first provide the government with a notice of claim. If this document fails to comply with the applicable local laws, the court may dismiss it entirely. Those who wish to bring a personal injury suit against the government in Nevada must first file a claim with the office of the attorney general.
- Lower-than-hoped-for payouts. Governments will normally set a limit on the amount of damages that you can recover for personal injury. In Nevada, that figure tops out at $50,000.
Personal Injury Lawsuits Against the Federal Government
Thanks to the Federal Tort Claims Act, a citizen who has suffered injury on federal property or following the negligence of a federal employee while performing work-based duties can now file a lawsuit against the federal government. Nevertheless, while the FTCA does leave the federal government open to lawsuits concerning personal injury or property damage, it also caps recovery for such claims at a predetermined amount while exempting itself from numerous forms of liability.
Government Immunities Against Personal Injury Lawsuits
Despite the loosening of the original sovereign immunity laws, all governments continue to declare themselves exempt from certain claims of personal injury. Here again, the specifics vary from one state to another. In Nevada, for example, while a person can sue claiming negligence on the part of a government office or its workers for injury resulting from a lawful action, the state is not liable for damage resulting from unlawful activity. In cases like this, the aggrieved party has no choice but to sue the responsible person or persons directly.
In addition, discretionary immunity sometimes protects Nevada’s government from liability in certain cases in which injury has resulted from:
- A failure of state officials or employees to exercise due care while executing regulations or statutes.
- Neglect while inspecting buildings, vehicles or construction projects for hazards.
- Omissions or negligent acts committed by members of law enforcement and fire departments.
When You Suffer Personal Injury at the Hands of the Government
If your personal injury has occurred on government property or results from the actions of a government employee, it is vital to secure legal assistance as soon as possible. You are unlikely to have much time in which to do this. Keep in mind that you may come face-to-face with certain obstacles. For example, lawsuits against government-run medical facilities or those seeking damages for harm caused by a legislator while performing his or her official duties will frequently hit a brick wall. The advice of a good personal injury lawyer can help you here.
If you have suffered a personal injury or property damage in or around a government facility or caused by the actions of a government employee, the attorneys at Weiner Law Group will evaluate your case on its merits and advise you concerning your optimal course of action. Don’t let fear of the government stand in your way. Please call 702-202-0500 today for a free consultation.