There are common premises liability situation where the government unit can be held responsible for the accident and injuries of an individual. Accident may happen when the traffic lights malfunction or the road signs are not present; or when a local government unit is at work on the road like obstruction of the roadway or excavation, and then somebody is injured when he/she trips and falls because of a defect in a sidewalk. These are situations where the governmental unit is accountable for maintaining the roads and walkways are legally liable to the injured party.
By tradition, the governmental units may enjoy “sovereign immunity” which provides full immunity of the government form being sued and found liable in a lawsuit. The state and federal governments have lessened this sovereign immunity in the previous years in some cases and conditions. These laws differ from one state to another state, but these are based on the Federal Tort Claims Act where the federal law waives the sovereign immunity of the federal government under some circumstances.
The Federal Tort Claims Act
In 1946, the Congress passed the Federal Tort Claims Act or FTCA. Before that, the federal government could not be sued for personal injury, wrongful death, or property damage caused by their workers unless there was a particular act of Congress that clearly authorizing the act. Nowadays, the FTCA permits any person to recover against the federal government for personal injury, wrongful death, and property damage caused by the negligence of a federal worker.
Basically, the person is acting within the scope of his/her employment when his/her act is authorized by the competent authority such as supervisor or a standard operating procedure, and is serving, even at least in part, a governmental purpose. When an individual is injured by the act or omission of an independent contractor employed by the federal government, the government may be held responsible for the negligence of the contractor is the plaintiff can prove that the government is authorized to control the detailed physical performance of the contractor, and practice a substantial supervision of its daily activities.
The only form of relief which is permitted under the FTCA is money damages for a particular amount. The Federal law controls the proceedings for pursuing claim against the federal government under FTCA, but the substantive law of the state where the negligent act or omission took place will determine the liability of the government. Under FTCA, the individual must file his/her claim in writing within two years after the cause of action was established. It is a prerequisite submit a written claim to be able to file a lawsuit against the federal government and when the injured person failed to do this may be a ground to dismiss any lawsuit against the government.
The State Government Immunity Laws
Any individual who wants to file a premises liability claim against a state or municipal government unit will be compelled by the state’s government immunity laws. There is several state immunity statutes limit liability for premises defects and others do this by setting a low standard of care for those on the property of the government. As a sample, there are certain state immunity statutes that the government practices a degree of care that a private individual owe a license on the private property, instead of the “ordinary care” standard which is used by several states for the actions among the parties involved. Apart from this, some states also design various standards of care which depend on the type of the defect in question, and if the injured person paid to use the property.
Most of the state immunity conducts restrict the governmental immunity where a case comprises a “special defect” that is a premises defect more dangerous than others because it entails an unusual danger. A special defect refers to a condition that puts the ordinary users of the highway, streets, or roads in danger and this does not have to be created by the government unit to oblige the government to prevent injuries. For instance, when there is a storm and the storm hits a tree into a roadway, the government is aware or, of reasonable care should have known of the problem.
Lastly, like any other claim against the federal government, the state immunity statutes have established written notice requirements and notifications of claim requirements that the injured person must follow before filing a lawsuit against a government unit. Every state also differs as to when these notifications must be given and their content, and therefore, it is very crucial to contact and discuss about the laws in your home state that are related to your claim and lawsuit.
Obtaining Legal Assistance
Premises liability lawsuits and claims against government units involve very particular liability rules and procedural requirements. It is therefore very helpful if you will be able to hire the services of an experienced attorney who knows about these personal injury cases and claims against the government units to make sure that you will be able to adhere to the restrictive notice and requirements of filing the claims.