After an Alabama car accident, you may have a legal right to compensation. But before you can exercise that right, you’ll need to figure out who was responsible for your injuries. This process can be as simple as looking at one other driver or as complex as looking at the many parties that might be responsible for a trucking accident.
But what happens when the government plays a role in your injuries?
The good news is that the law allows you to collect damages from certain government actors. However, the rules around this issue can be complex. Here’s what you need to know about suing the government after an Alabama car accident.
When Might a Government Agency Be Responsible for an Alabama Car Accident?
To get damages in an accident case, you’ll need to prove that the other person or entity (a.k.a the defendant) was not being careful. Lawyers call this carelessness “negligence.” To prove negligence, you’ll have to show that
- The defendant had a duty to do something,
- The defendant failed to perform that duty or did so in a careless manner,
- You suffered injuries, and
- The defendant’s failure to act or to act carefully was the cause of your injuries.
When it comes to car accidents, the government’s involvement usually falls into two categories.
First, accidents can be caused by poor road conditions. Most of America’s roads are operated by cities, counties, states, and the federal government. These governments have a duty to
- Choose a safe road design with appropriate safety measures (guardrails, etc.).
- Keep roads safe and drivable by repairing all dangerous conditions in a reasonable time.
- Make sure that all safety measures (lighting, signs, traffic signals, lane markings, etc.) are present and working.
A government’s failure to perform one of its duties could be considered negligent. For example, assume that you get into an accident after hitting a pothole. The government knew about that pothole but didn’t fix it in a timely manner. If you can prove that the failure to fix the pothole caused the accident, you might be able to sue the government.
Of course, drivers also cause accidents. Every driver has a duty to drive carefully. Legally, employers are usually responsible for their employees’ on-the-job actions. So, if the car that hit you was a government vehicle or was driven by a government employee, you may be able to sue the government for your injuries.
There may be other scenarios where the government might be responsible. Talk to an Alabama injury lawyer as soon as possible after your accident to discuss the government’s potential role in your crash.
The Problem With Suing the Government After an Alabama Car Accident
Even if a government employee is responsible for your car accident injuries, it is not always easy or possible to sue the government. To understand why, we have to go back to the colonial days.
In Great Britain, citizens could not sue the king. Because the king was the supreme, or sovereign, ruler, this doctrine became known as sovereign immunity. When the colonists came to America, sovereign immunity was one of the British legal traditions that they brought with them.
Sovereign immunity matters to your car accident case for two reasons. First, sovereign immunity means that you cannot sue a government unless it either 1) has no sovereign immunity or 2) waives its immunity. Second, sometimes the government’s immunity also covers its employees. But if it doesn’t, you might be able to sue the person who caused the accident even if you can’t sue the government.
Suing the Federal Government After a Car Accident
Alabama car accident claims against the federal government (the United States) are governed by the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). (Tort is the area of law that includes negligence and other personal injury claims.) The FTCA waives the United States’ sovereign immunity for certain personal injury claims. To win, in addition to proving negligence, you’ll have to show that you were injured by a federal government employee who was performing official duties.
Here are the answers to a few other questions.
What types of damages can I get from the federal government?
The FTCA allows you to sue the US government for both bodily injuries and property damage. There is no cap on damages.
How long do I have to file a claim against the federal government?
You have two years to file a claim. However, the process can be complex. It’s best to contact a Birmingham accident lawyer as soon as possible.
Suing the State of Alabama After a Car Accident
Unlike the federal government, Alabama has not waived its immunity. This makes it quite difficult to sue the state of Alabama after a car accident. Alabama state employees also enjoy this immunity.
There is an exception, however. Alabama law says that you can sue an Alabama state employee for a car accident if you can prove that the employee acted “willfully, maliciously, fraudulently, in bad faith, beyond his or her authority, or under a mistaken interpretation of the law.” Because negligence isn’t mentioned, this language makes it exceptionally difficult to bring a negligence claim against an Alabama state employee. Your Alabama accident lawyer can help you determine how these and other laws apply to your case.
What types of damages can I get from the state of Alabama?
Damages can cover personal injury and property damage. There is no limit.
How long do I have to file a claim against the state?
Technically, the law gives you two years to file your claim. However, you should contact an Alabama accident attorney in the days after your accident.
Suing an Alabama City or County After a Car Accident
Unlike federal and state governments, cities and counties do not have sovereign immunity. As long as you can prove that the local employee was negligent while acting within the scope of their job duties, your claim should not be derailed by sovereign immunity.
What types of damages can I get from a city or county?
You can get damages for both bodily injury and property damage. However, state law caps each of these types of damages at $100,000 with a maximum of $300,000 bodily injury for any one incident.
How long do I have to file a claim against an Alabama city or county?
If your claim is against the city, you have just six months to begin the claims process. When a county is the defendant, the law gives you 12 months. These shortened timelines are another reason you should call a Birmingham injury lawyer immediately after your accident.
More Questions About Suing the Government After an Alabama Car Accident?
Car accidents raise many legal issues. The number of legal issues doubles when one of the parties involved is a federal, state, or local government. If you have questions about suing the government after a car accident, please do not hesitate to contact Collins Law, LLC. Our firm will answer your questions about suing the government after a car accident, trucking accident, or any other personal injury case. If you’ve been injured and need legal help, call us at 205-588-1411 or use our website’s online scheduling tool to schedule a free consultation.