How Do You Get Compensation When Injured by a Driver Who Is a Government Employee?
In most car accidents, everyone exchanges insurance information, contacts their policy adjusters, and files claims for compensation. However, many of the typical rules no longer apply if this accident involves a government vehicle or employee.
If a government employee driver injures you, you may still have options for compensation. Learn about the important, time-sensitive differences in these cases to increase your chances of a successful claim.
If you have been injured in an accident involving a government vehicle or employee, the St. Louis car crash attorneys of Cofman Townsley can help you determine your options for compensation.
What Counts as a Government Vehicle?
A government vehicle is any vehicle registered to either the federal, state, or municipal government. Government vehicles are generally owned or leased by a governmental entity and can include:
- Garbage trucks
- City buses
- Mail carriers
- Public school busses
- Vehicles with government plates
By law, every government vehicle must be conspicuously identified. Most government vehicles have U.S. government license plates and display the specific government agency name or logo in the lower-left corner.
If your accident involved a government emergency vehicle, such as a police car, firetruck, or ambulance, it may be more challenging to get compensation for your injuries. Speak with one of our experienced lawyers as soon as possible to review your options.
What is Sovereign Immunity?
It is more complicated to file a claim against a government employee because they are often protected by sovereign immunity. Under the rules of sovereign immunity, if a government-employed driver performs regular government duties when the accident occurs, they are protected from legal claims.
If you do manage to fight a successful case, sovereign immunity limits the financial damages you can claim. In 2022, the sovereign immunity limits capped payouts at $459,893.
While this may seem like a lot of money, it may not be enough to cover the full extent of your damages. If you’re involved in a serious accident, you not only have to pay for the initial medical bills but may also require long-term medical treatment. A serious injury can also prevent you from working, limiting your ability to earn income.
How the Missouri Tort Claims Act Affects Government Claims
Despite the challenges posed by the sovereign immunity system in Missouri, it may be possible to make a claim. The Missouri Tort Claims Act helps citizens pursue cases against acts of negligence. However, this law waives sovereign immunity if a person is injured in an accident with a government employee in two specific situations:
- A government employee directly injures a member of the public due to negligent acts while operating a motor vehicle during the course of their employment.
- A government employee created a dangerous condition on a public entity’s property that directly caused an accident or injury. The injured party must prove that the defendant caused the dangerous conditions and that their actions led to the injury.
In both scenarios, the employee must have been actively on duty for the Tort Claims Act to apply. For instance, the employee can claim sovereign immunity if a city garbage truck driver accidentally hits a pedestrian crossing the street. However, if the truck driver was texting while driving at the time of the accident, you can claim negligence, and the government may be held liable.
What is the Statute of Limitations for Suing the State of Missouri?
If your accident falls under one of the exceptions, the Missouri Tort Claims Act allows you to file a claim with the Commissioner of Administration within two years of the accident.
Otherwise, you can file an injury claim against the state of Missouri or a city government with the Risk Management Division of the state’s Office of Administration. If your accident occurred on state property, you must file an Accident on State Property Loss Form within 24-48 hours. Waiting too long can make you lose your right to seek compensation in court against the government.
Our Lawyers Can Help
If you have been injured in an accident involving a government vehicle or employee, the lawyers at Cofman Townsley can help you understand your options for the compensation you deserve. We work tirelessly to help you navigate your unique situation, and we’re not afraid to go to court if you aren’t being offered a fair settlement.
Call our law office today to get started on your claim and achieve justice and get compensation for your injuries.