Automobile accidents caused by government-owned vehicles — including buses and trains — are common in Washington. In most states, government entities have a certain measure of immunity or limited liability in personal injury lawsuits. Washington State, however, is uniquely favorable to pedestrians, motorists and passengers injured by public transit vehicles.
The concept of sovereign immunity — total immunity for government entities from tort liability — came to the United States from English common law. However, most states and the federal government have passed laws waiving sovereign immunity to a certain extent. Nonetheless, these laws usually include some limitation on that liability:
Limits on monetary damages
Decreased statutes of limitations
Special pleading and notice requirements
Stricter burdens of proof
In 1961, Washington State went even further by wholly waiving sovereign immunity and allowing itself and its municipalities to be liable for personal injuries in the same manner as any other organization or individual. There are still special issues that attorneys must contend with when suing a public entity. Often, identifying the correct department or entity to sue can be a challenge by itself. Furthermore, special statutes may impose unique notice requirements and procedures for suits against certain government entities.
These requirements include requiring plaintiffs to submit verified claim forms to the government entity describing the details of their claims and then waiting at least 60 days before filing suit. Failing to follow these rules could, cause delays and additional expenses and could get your case thrown out of court.