If you are injured in an accident caused by the negligence of a business or another person, you have the right to sue to recover compensation from them. When the party responsible for causing you to be injured is the federal, state or local government, different rules apply.
Federal and state governments are protected from being sued through the legal doctrine known as “sovereign immunity.” The doctrine, which is called governmental immunity when it relates to local governments, has been waived to at least some extent by governments at most levels with some states completely abolishing it. That does not mean that the rules for making a claim for personal injuries is the same against a government entity as it is against an individual or a business.
In exchange for allowing themselves to be sued, governments set special rules that claimants must follow when making a claim for compensation. Some of them, such as giving only months rather than two or more years that you have when making a claim against a person or non-government entity, could cause you to lose your right to recover compensation if you do not act quickly.
Types of personal injury claims against the government
Personal injury claims against a government agency happen more frequently than you might imagine. Some of the common situations that create a claim for damages against the government include:
- Slip-and-fall and other types of accidents occurring in a government building or on property under the control of the government, such as a park.
- A motor vehicle accident caused by the driver of a government-owned vehicle.
- Failure to properly design or maintain a road that causes an accident in which you suffer personal injuries.
- Claim against a school district for injuries to a child while under the supervision and care of school personnel.
As a general rule, damages caused by the negligence of public employees acting in their official capacity may be the basis for a claim against the government agency or entity that employed them.
Suing the government for personal injuries
The federal government partially waived sovereign immunity protection with passage of the Federal Tort Claims Act. The law grants citizens the right to sue it to recover damages for personal injuries caused through the negligence of employees and agencies of the federal government.
Each state has its own statute defining the rights of citizens to sue state and local governments for personal injuries when caused by the negligence of a government employee or agency. The Oregon statute allows you to sue for damages when the negligent conduct of government employees acting within the scope of their employment causes you to be injured.
As do other states, the Oregon law limits establishes specific rules that you must follow to assert a claim against the state or local governments for damages. For example, if you slip and fall because of a defect in the floor of an office building owned by a person or a company, you have up to two years to file a lawsuit against the building owner.
If the same type of accident happens in a building owned by the state or a local government, your Bend personal injury attorney cannot immediately file a lawsuit on your behalf. Instead, Oregon law requires that your lawyer notify the government of the claim within 180 days of the date of your injury by filing with it a notice of claim.
The notice of claim must be in writing and contain the following information:
- A statement that a claim is asserted against a specific government body or agency.
- The time, place and circumstances giving rise to the claim.
- The name and contact information of the claimant and the claimant’s attorney.
A notice of claim must be personally delivered or mailed to the government body or agency against which the claim is made. Although you still must file the lawsuit within two years from the date of the injury as you would in personal injury cases against a person or company, you also must first comply with the legal requirement of giving written notice to the government of the claim.
Get help with personal injury claims against the government
If you have a claim against a government agency for personal injuries, you need the assistance of an experienced and knowledgeable Bend personal injury attorney to navigate through the notice of claim and other special rules the law imposes. Learn more about the rights you have and how to enforce them during a free consultation.