Involved in a Car Accident with a Government Employee?

What happens if you are involved in an auto accident with a police car, fire truck, ambulance, city bus, or mail truck in the San Fernando Valley?

Government Immunity

It can be challenging to sue the government (whether city, county, state, or federal), but it is not impossible; especially with the assistance of a skilled personal injury attorney. The difficulties can be due to the fact that government agencies have immunity that allows them to escape liability for some actions or omissions, even if a private individual or entity would be liable for the same conduct. This means that the government is only liable in cases where it has waived immunity and given consent to be sued.

Exceptions for Car Accidents

Both the federal government and many states (California included) have created exceptions to government immunity that allow them to be sued for personal injury accidents caused by a government employee, for accidents involving government-owned vehicles, and for accidents caused by dangerous highway conditions. The laws that allow the government to be sued include strict guidelines for filing an injury claim and bringing a lawsuit. If you do not follow these rules, you lose the right to receive compensation for injuries caused by the government.

Statute of Limitations for a Claim Against the Government

In California, an individual generally has 2 years to file a lawsuit for financial reimbursement for damages from a personal injury. After 2 years from the date of injury, the statute of limitations expires and you lose the right to file a lawsuit. If the injury was not discovered at the time of the incident, then you have 1 year from the date that you discovered the injury.

However, as per the California Tort Claims Act, if you are suing a public entity or government agency (city, county, state, federal, or a branch thereof), you must file an administrative claim with the government agency within 6 months from the date of the incident. If your claim is denied within 45 days, then you have 6 months from the date of denial to file your lawsuit. If you do not receive a denial, then you still have 2 years from the date of the incident. Consult an attorney as soon as possible so that you can take the proper steps to preserve your claim if you were involved in an accident with a government vehicle.

Government Affiliated Organizations

If an employee of an organization funded by the state is involved in an accident or injury, it may not be clear if you have to follow the California Tort Claims Act if the organization is not an official state agency. The question turns on whether the organization is an "arm" of the state. It is always best to be extra careful and file an administrative claim to any government branch or organization that may be at fault. The possible intricacies of a lawsuit against the government is reason enough to seek representation by a personal injury attorney experienced in the field of auto accidents.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Barry P. Goldberg, A Professional Law Corporation | Attorney Advertising

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