Collecting damages from government entities
What do you do, however, if a cop car suddenly careens by, scratching your car during the hot pursuit of a criminal? Now you have a car door that needs repairing, and your Honda Civic ain't gonna pay for itself.
What are your rights?
Getting into a car accident with a government vehicle changes the rules in personal injury cases. It's no longer about just working with your insurance company; now you have to deal with the government. In many instances, the law grants certain governmental positions immunity. This means that the person at fault for the car crash (and any injuries and property damage caused thereby) may be legally protected from recourse. This leaves you out of luck.
The first step to take after a car accident with a government vehicle is to file your claim as soon as possible.
The government has a shorter statute of limitations working to its advantage; that is the time window in which to file your case. Once that time is up, the claim is barred forever. Some states may offer one years, two years, even six years to file. The government's statute of limitations is often 180 days.
If you don't have time to put into finding the right lawyer immediately, get any lawyer to file your case - literally anyone with a law license. That will preserve your claim and protect your legal rights. You can always switch counsel later on in the process.
Prepare your formal written claim:
- Full contact information
- Your personal statement regarding the car accident, including supporting facts and evidence
- The date of the accident
- What you are seeking in damages, based on and supported by medical and repair bills
Assuming the car accident involved a non-emergency government vehicle such as a city garbage truck, you may have little difficulty receiving compensation. Cases in which the other driver was operating an emergency vehicle, such as a police car, ambulance or fire truck, are trickier. A car accident attorney can offer advice regarding how to proceed in those situations.
What to do after a car accident with a government vehicle
The more important the government entity is, the more complex your claim becomes. These sort of accidents fall under the Federal Tort Claims Act, which requires plaintiffs to prove negligence on the part of the government employee driving the vehicle (and also file the claim with the House of Representatives). This carries a two-year statute of limitations.
The details of your claim remain the same. However, a government form, Standard Form 95, is required for any case alleging negligence on the part of a federal government employee in the course of his employment. They have six months upon submission to decide your claim.
In the event the government rejects your claim, there is an additional six months in which to file a federal lawsuit. A car accident attorney can guide you through this process.