If you were injured in a car accident involving a police officer, were discriminated against by a government employee, slipped and fell in a post office, or were involved in any similar incident involving an injury or harm that was caused by carelessness or negligence on behalf of an official government agency, group, or employee, you might be wondering about your rights and how you can get the help you need to recover. While suing the government is possible, the process can be difficult.
You can take legal action against a city, town, county, or state government. The federal government can also be held responsible for negligence. There are, however, rigid steps to follow and deadlines to meet in order to avoid having your case thrown out. While any personal injury claim is bound to be complicated, going up against a government entity can make the case even more complex. You’ll need a strong legal team by your side to achieve the outcome you’re looking for.
Why is Suing a Government Entity Different than Suing an Individual?
Unlike a personal injury claim against an individual, lawsuits against a government entity come with specific rules and guidelines. Failing to follow the steps exactly can result in dismissal. The biggest differences are with time limits and notice requirements.
With most personal injury cases, the claimant needs to worry about the statute of limitations. This is the period of time you have to file a claim or lawsuit after you sustain your injuries. While the time limits vary depending on the state and the type of claim, a person generally has somewhere between one and six years to take action. When suing a county or state government, however, there are often shorter time limits. Some jurisdictions require claims be filed within 30 days. Fortunately for West Virginia residents, they have two years to take action.
A traditional lawsuit can be filed in court. With a lawsuit against the government, a Notice of Claim needs to be filed. This is not filled out in court. Instead, it must be mailed to each government employee or entity that caused your injuries. Your lawyer will be able to determine what information needs to be included. There is also a waiting period associated with filing a lawsuit after providing a Notice of Claim. Typically, a person will need to wait 30 to 120 days after the Notice of Claim has been submitted to file a lawsuit.
Taking Action Against West Virginia
According to West Virginia’s constitution, the state cannot be made a defendant in court. As a result, it would seem that residents do not have the right to sue the government, but this is not the case. According to West Virginia Code §55-17-1, there are a number of actions, suits, and proceedings that can be filed against state agencies and officials that may affect the public interest. The Legislature, however, cannot be held accountable. Only smaller agencies related to the government can be taken to court. Because the state laws often seem to contradict each other, your attorney will be able to determine what rights you have, so you can file a suit against the correct agency.
It’s important to note that you cannot recover punitive damages when you file a lawsuit against a government agency. This is because it’s believed punitive damages, which are used to punish the guilty party, would not have the same effect on the government as they would on an individual.
Can You Sue the Federal Government for Negligence?
Historically, individuals could not take action against the federal government because of sovereign immunity. This is the idea that you cannot sue the government unless they say you can. Fortunately for victims, the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) allows certain types of lawsuits to be filed against government employees.
To determine if you can file a lawsuit under the FTCA, there are guidelines to consider. First, independent contractors hired by the federal government cannot be sued. The negligent party has to be a federal employee. The negligent actions have to have taken place within the scope of employment. Typically, claims for intentional misconduct cannot be filed. The action must be related to negligence or wrongful conduct. Finally, the claim has to be based on the state law related to the misconduct.
To take legal action against the federal government, you must first file an administrative claim. You have two years to file. When you file, you must include facts and damages in your claim, including the exact amount of money you’ve lost because of the negligence. Once you’ve filed, the agency has six months to respond. After you’ve received their reply, you have six months to file a lawsuit. The process is complex and it’s best to have the help of an experienced lawyer.
No matter what your personal injury claim, the lawyers at DiPiero Simmons McGinley & Bastress, PLLC are prepared to evaluate your case and help you determine how to proceed. If you are taking legal action against your county or state, or the federal government, we will ensure no important deadlines are missed and all paperwork is filed correctly.
It can be intimidating to go up against a government entity, but we believe victims deserve justice for what they were wrongfully put through – no matter who the guilty party is. To learn more, schedule a consultation with our attorneys today.