Authored by Craig Aronow, Esq.
Can You Sue After a Crash With a Government Vehicle?
The average car accident lawsuit leads to a settlement of $31,000, so it’s definitely worthwhile to sue if someone else causes you to get into a car accident. However, the type of vehicle involved in your crash will affect your case. If the other party was driving a government vehicle, successfully suing them can be challenging.
What Counts as a Government Vehicle?
A government vehicle is not just a vehicle owned and driven by a local city government employee. Instead, it is a strict class of legal vehicles. To count as a government vehicle, the motor vehicle must be owned or leased by a government entity. Furthermore, it must also be operated by a government employee. Regardless of whether the employee is on or off duty, the vehicle is still a government vehicle when the authorized employee uses it. However, if a government vehicle is stolen or driven by someone not authorized to use the vehicle, an accident with the vehicle wouldn’t count as a government vehicle accident.
Some examples of government vehicles may include:
- Police cars
- School buses
- Semi-trucks that transport government property
- Transportation for board and commission members who travel a lot for their job
- Secure vehicles for local, state, or federal politicians
- City-owned utility vehicles, like street cleaners
- Golf carts used by park rangers
Are Government Vehicles Exempt From Lawsuits?
There are a lot of misconceptions involving government vehicles, so many people end up thinking they have no hope of getting compensation after a crash. However, this is no longer true. In 1972, New Jersey created the Tort Claims Act. Under these new laws, private citizens gained the right to sue the government. After any accident involving a government vehicle, you are allowed to work with a trucking accident lawyer and file a personal injury claim.
These rules apply to local, state, and federal government vehicles. Even if the government vehicle crashed into you while pursuing their duty, you have the right to sue for compensation. Just like any other party, you can accuse them of negligence and ask for them to pay you for your damages. This can help you recover money for things like lost wages or pain and suffering.
Who Do You Sue After a Government Vehicle Crash?
Ultimately, any government vehicle crash usually involves suing the government. The government is responsible for maintaining the vehicle, hiring an employee who can drive correctly, and deciding where the vehicle goes. However, in any accident, more than one party can be at fault. This can mean that the government may end up passing on some of the responsibility for the crash to private entities. For example, if the employee was operating a vehicle while drunk, you might be able to sue the individual person as well. In cases where the crash was due to a faulty car part, you might be able to sue the manufacturer of the car.
When you are filing a lawsuit against multiple parties, things get a little trickier. Sometimes, it may be necessary to divide the lawsuits into multiple suits against the government and against the other private entities. However, it’s also possible to file a lawsuit against multiple parties at once. Depending on how things are handled, the co-defendants can end up paying their own individual settlement or dividing up the cost of compensation.
How Much Compensation Do You Get?
When you sue the government, the amount of damages you can claim is often a bit smaller. If you have insurance that covers part of your injury, your compensation might be smaller. The amount of insurance money you get will be deducted from the compensation you win in the lawsuit.
Another thing to keep in mind is that lawsuits against the government mostly focus on physical injuries. You can easily prove the value of injuries like a medical bill or a cost to repair your car. However, compensation for pain and suffering is harder to get. When suing a government entity in New Jersey, you can only get pain and suffering damages if you have some sort of permanent bodily loss, like disfigurement, a missing limb, or a lost bodily function. Furthermore, you also need to have medical bills of more than $3,600 to qualify for pain and suffering compensation.
Are the Rules for Government Vehicle Lawsuits Different?
When you are suing the government directly, things get more complicated. Unlike suing a private individual, you have to handle things a little differently. Under the New Jersey Tort Claims Act, you have to file a Notice of Claim within 90 days of the accident or discovered injury. This is a formal notice that you intend to sue, and it needs to be given to the municipality or government entity that owns the vehicle responsible in the crash.
In addition to meaning you have to file extra paperwork, this rule also ends up meaning you have to act promptly after an accident. Usually, you have two to six years to file your lawsuit. However, if you don’t go ahead and notify the government of your intent to sue within 90 days, you cannot sue them. There are a few circumstances in which you can extend this statute of limitations. However, even if the court does agree to your petition to extend the waiting period, you still only have one year before filing.
What Happens When You Sue the Government?
Any lawsuit against a government vehicle will start with you filling out a form that gives basic details about your case. This includes things like your name, the date of the accident, the names of at-fault government employees, and the amount of damages you think you are owed. Once you file the Notice of Claim with the state, you have to wait for their response. The government will go over your claim and decide if you have a valid case or not. They have 90 days from receiving it to accept or deny your claim. You cannot proceed with your government vehicle lawsuit until you get a response.
If the government says you have not provided enough information, you can proceed by providing more details as needed. Once they have enough details to determine you might have a valid claim, it’s time for your lawsuit. From here, things will proceed much like a normal lawsuit. You will be able to file a suit with the court, present your arguments in front of a judge, and have lawyers to argue on your behalf.
Because government lawsuits involve so many extra rules, you need to work with an experienced personal injury attorney. They can help you navigate all the extra paperwork, new filing deadlines, and other special regulations. At RAM Law, our team of trucking accident lawyers has plenty of experience handling complex lawsuits. We have conveniently located offices in New Brunswick and Somerville, and we can assist you with everything from preparing documents to gathering evidence. To learn more about our services, call 732-394-1549 or fill out our contact form.