Dealing with any car accident can be an overwhelming and stressful experience. Yet, filing a car accident claim against a government entity can be even more difficult, leaving accident victims with no idea how to navigate the process and what to do next.
However, learning about the steps in filing a car accident claim against a government agency can help you avoid major pitfalls and issues and help ensure you are on track to go after the compensation and justice you deserve. Connect with a car accident lawyer for legal guidance.
Car Accident Claims Against the Government: How Are They Different?
Typically, after a motor vehicle accident, when another motorist is at fault, car accident victims will have to deal with the insurance company and try to come up with a fair settlement amount. Pursuing a lawsuit may be the next step if these negotiations do not work.
In comparison, if you bring a car accident claim against the government, these claims are controlled by different rules and laws. For instance, you must make a written claim against the government before you can file a lawsuit.
This claim must also be handled in a particular manner, using specific forms, and include detailed and relevant information. More importantly, if it is not filed by the stringent deadlines or is missing certain information, the claim will be rejected, and you will not be able to get the compensation you deserve.
The Deadlines to File a Motor Vehicle Claim Against the Government
One of the most significant issues individuals have with filing a claim against the government is the time limitations or the deadline by which they need to file a claim. In general, while most car accident victims have around two years after an accident to file a lawsuit, the statute of limitations for a government accident claim is usually much shorter.
In fact, for most government accident claims, you will only have six months to file a lawsuit against the government. Otherwise, they will waive your claim.
However, to know more about these deadlines and how they can affect your case, consider contacting an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. These lawyers can provide further information regarding the time limitations and help ensure the appropriate documents are submitted before time runs out.
The Amount You Can Claim After a Motor Vehicle Accident
If you are involved in an accident with a government vehicle, federal and state laws often limit how much you can recover for your injuries. For instance, the Federal Torts Claims Act allows each state to determine a total damage cap. However, even if a state does not limit the amount a person can receive in compensation, the Act may still include some limitations.
What Is the Federal Torts Claim Act?
The Federal Torts Claims Act, or the FTCA, is federal legislation allowing individuals to sue the federal government. Before the adoption of the Act, individuals could not file a lawsuit against the federal government because of the doctrine of sovereign immunity.
This means that before the Act, you could not sue for damages if you were in an accident with a federal employee performing their job, such as a mail carrier delivering their mail. Only after the FTCA was adopted could accident victims file a claim against the federal government for their injuries and losses.
Nonetheless, there are still various restrictions and exceptions that govern these suits, including:
- Only federal employees can be sued under the Federal Torts Claim Act. This means you cannot sue independent contractors hired by the federal government.
- The wrongful or negligent actions of the federal employee need to be within the course of their employment.
- Under the FTCA, only claims of negligence are allowed. Consequently, if a federal employee intentionally harms another, the victim cannot pursue a suit against the government.
- The claim must be based on the state's laws where the wrongdoing happened.
Due to these limitations, if you were involved in a car accident and want to pursue a claim against a governmental entity, consider discussing the accident with a knowledgeable car accident attorney who can help you better understand the FTCA and what the rules can mean for your claim.
What Is Considered a Governmental Vehicle?
If you were involved in a car crash with a governmental vehicle, you may be able to pursue legal action. However, before pursuing any action, you must verify that the other vehicle was a government vehicle.
Generally, a government vehicle is any vehicle owned or leased by the federal government or any state, city, or county government.
These vehicles include:
- Police vehicles
- Fire Trucks
- City buses and trucks
- U.S. Postal Service vehicles
- Military tanks
- Military convoy vehicles
- Federal agency fleet vehicles
Yet, after an accident, if you believe the other vehicle was a government vehicle, contact a knowledgeable car accident lawyer as soon as possible. These legal professionals can determine if you can pursue a car accident claim against a government entity and help you fight for the maximum damages you deserve.
Can I Pursue a Claim Against a Government Employee Who Used a Personal Vehicle or Was Not Working at the Time of the Accident?
If you were involved in an accident with a government employee who was not working at the time of the accident and they were in their personal vehicle, then the claim you make will be with the insurance companies involved, and the Torts Claim Act will not apply.
However, if the at-fault driver was not working, but they were still in a government vehicle, the Torts Claim Act would likely apply. The same goes for a government employees working but driving in their personal vehicle. Yet, these situations can be more complicated and harder to win than claims involving government vehicles.
In addition, while the FTCA allows lawsuits against the federal government for injuries that result from accidents caused by federal employees, these employees must have been operating within the parameters of their job. Consequently, to determine your available legal options, an experienced car accident attorney can thoroughly investigate the accident and the laws involved.
For instance, if the crash happens when a federal employee drove a government vehicle, what they did at the time of the accident will matter:
- If they operated the vehicle between work sites during their duties, the federal government might be liable for any injuries.
- If they operated the vehicle at the beginning of their shift, the federal government might not be liable for the injuries resulting from the accident.
Furthermore, before you can file a lawsuit against the federal government, you must also submit a complaint to the liable employee's agency. You can file a lawsuit only after they have rejected the claim.
File Your Claim
You must file your administrative claim within two years of injury, or your property was destroyed or damaged. If you hold off too long to file your claim, it can be rejected, and you will not be able to file a lawsuit in federal court to go after the monetary damages you deserve.
Include Specific Details in Your Claim
When preparing the administrative claim, you must include enough facts to detail what happened and the amount of money you are asking for. The specific forms will walk you through the information you must provide to file your claim. However, it is important to fill out these documents appropriately and not ask for too little money since you cannot ask for more money if you pursue a lawsuit without new evidence.
Six Months to Respond
The federal agency will have six months to respond to an administrative claim. They can "admit" the claim, which means they agree with it and can offer to pay you some or all of the monetary damages you requested. Or on the other hand, the agency can also deny your claim or offer you less than what you believe the claim is worth.
File a Lawsuit
After the federal agency rules on your claim, you will have six months to file a lawsuit from when their decision is mailed to you. Do not delay this filing, as failing to file this lawsuit on time can result in the dismissal of your suit as untimely.
As you can see, pursuing a claim against a government entity can be tedious and complex. That is why consider discussing the incident with an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible. These lawyers can help you through each of these steps, prepare the required documents, and assist you as you go after the maximum compensation you are entitled to.
Filing a Lawsuit in Federal Court
If you can pursue a lawsuit against a government entity, you must file your lawsuit in the United States District Court of the state where the claim arose or where you live. In addition, remember you cannot ask for more money than what you asked for in your administrative claim unless you can present newly found evidence to support this higher amount. After filing the lawsuit, it will proceed like any other lawsuit.
Settling an FTCA Claim
Generally, you will have two opportunities to settle a claim with the federal government. First, you will be able to try to settle during the administrative claims process, where you will get a chance to negate a settlement with the government attorney assigned to your case. If that does not materialize into a reasonable settlement offer, you will have another opportunity when you file a lawsuit in federal court. There you will be able to negotiate with a new team of lawyers from the U.S. Department of Justice.
Yet, negotiating against the government can be challenging, and there are numerous hurdles you will have to overcome. As a result, if you want the best chance of getting the compensation you deserve, contact an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible. These lawyers can not only help you deal with the procedural complexities of these claims, but they can also determine the worth of your case and help you fight for every last dollar you need.
Contact an Experienced Car Accident Attorney and Fight for Your Rights
Having to deal with the consequences of any car accident can be a challenging ordeal. However, dealing with the government after a car accident can add a new layer of frustration and disappointment. Fortunately, when you work with an experienced car accident lawyer, you will not have to take on this fight alone.
Your lawyers can not only determine whether you have a viable legal claim against a government entity, but they can also:
- Follow the procedural requirements of filing a claim against the government entity.
- Fill out the appropriate forms and submit them before time runs out.
- Perform a thorough investigation into the accident and gather the evidence that can help show what happened and who was at fault.
- Pursue the maximum amount of money you are entitled to.
Do not wait any longer to get help with your legal claim against a government entity. Instead, contact an experienced personal injury attorney in Philadelphia today for your free case consultation.