Obtaining the compensation you deserve for injuries you suffered in a car accident is rarely easy, but the process can be much more complex if a government employee driving a government car or other vehicle caused your collision. Local, state, and federal governments are protected from liability in many situations where a private negligent party would be held responsible. In addition, you must follow special rules when filing a claim against the Commonwealth of Virginia, local municipality, or federal government.
How Sovereign Immunity Could Affect Your Claim
Sovereign immunity, which is also referred to as governmental immunity, is a legal theory that protects federal, state, and local governments from liability if a government employee, agency, or other entity is negligent and causes a person to suffer injuries. However, there are exceptions to this rule under Virginia and federal law that can permit you to file a claim for compensation if their employee was at fault in causing your crash. In our state, you are permitted to file a claim against a governmental agency or employee if your injuries were the result of their negligence and their actions were lawful and in the scope of their employment.
Many different types of vehicles are owned and operated by state, municipal, and federal governmental agencies and fall within the exception to the governmental immunity laws. They include:
- Government-owned motor vehicles
- Mail trucks
- Dump trucks
- Garbage trucks
- Local government or county snowplows
- Municipal or school buses
- Police cars, fire trucks, ambulances, and other emergency response vehicles
Special Rules That Apply When You File a Claim Against the Government
You must follow special procedures and laws when seeking compensation for your injuries from the government. Here are a few of the differences you should know about:
- Notice requirements. You must comply with specific rules on how to give the governmental agency notice of your claim. Different procedures may apply depending on whether the negligent party is a federal, state, or local governmental agency.
- Shorter deadline. You may have a much shorter time period, or statute of limitations, to file your claim against a governmental agency. For example, you must file a claim within one year of your car accident if your claim is against the Commonwealth of Virginia.
- Caps on damages. There may be special rules that limit the amount of compensation you can receive no matter how severe your injuries are. In Virginia, you can only obtain the maximum of any liability insurance coverage.
Claims against a governmental agency or employee are extremely complicated. If you are considering filing a claim against the government, you must hire an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible to ensure that you comply with the procedural rules you must follow and to protect your legal rights. Call our Norfolk office to schedule a free case evaluation today to find out how we can assist you.