Government Vehicle Accidents


It may be entertaining to watch scenes on television or in the movies where police cars chase suspects at high rates of speed, careening into other vehicles and even people, or when ambulances race through intersections, causing massive pileups in their wake. While this may be exciting to watch on television, what happens in the world of reality when government vehicles cause accidents that injure or kill people?

In some cases, government vehicles and their operators may have what is known as immunity from liability. Precisely because they respond to an emergency and act in public welfare, operators of government vehicles and the public entities that own them are given a wide breadth of latitude in the duty of care they are expected to exercise. Once emergency personnel activate their vehicle's siren and flashing red lights, their conduct is measured by the standard of care that applies to a reasonable person under similar circumstances, including in an emergency.

However, a driver of an emergency vehicle should not cause an accident while responding to one. Drivers of any emergency vehicle--fire engines, ambulances, police cars--should exercise a duty of care that is reasonable under the circumstances when responding to an emergency. Failure to exercise such a duty of care creates liability.

Tort Claims Against Government Entities Under State and Federal Law

Suing the government for causing an accident requires intricate knowledge of the Federal Tort Claims Act and the California Tort Claims Act. Only an attorney experienced in claims against government entities can fully protect your rights and ensure that you receive just compensation for your physical, emotional, and financial damages.

Initiating legal action against governmental entities by the Federal Tort Claims Act or the California Tort Claims Act (CTCA) necessitates the submission of a claim within a relatively narrow window of 180 days or six months, commencing from the moment of one's injury or the unfortunate demise of a family member. It's worth noting that the statute of limitations, which dictates the timeframe within which you must initiate your case, is significantly abbreviated compared to that applicable to most other personal injury claims, typically allowing for a more generous two years.

While the main reason for the aforementioned 6-month timeframe is to give the government notice of any defects or dangers it needs to address and to allow it to budget for any settlements and trials, in reality, it affords the government a considerable advantage over a public that is largely unaware of this time constraint.

This highlights the importance of seeking counsel from an auto accident attorney with expertise in pursuing claims against government entities to safeguard your legal rights. Overcoming governmental immunity can be exceptionally challenging, and initiating a claim within the specified timeframe represents just the initial obstacle in such cases. To elaborate, federal and state tort claims acts entail numerous intricate procedural and notice requirements, which can pose significant pitfalls for an attorney lacking experience or for individuals attempting to navigate these complexities without legal guidance.

Speak with a Skilled Injury Lawyer to Discuss Your Case

While it may seem as if the government vehicles most likely to be involved in accidents would be emergency vehicles such as police, fire, and EMT vehicles, the truth is that many other types of government vehicles cause accidents daily.

School bus transportation-related accidents, accidents involving road construction vehicles and equipment, and even collisions with post office vehicles occur all too frequently. Knowing what evidence to obtain, what public entity to pursue, and what law--federal or state--applies are all critical factors to obtaining a successful outcome for someone who was injured or lost a loved one in an accident with a government vehicle.

Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer

Have you or a loved one suffered an injury in an accident caused by another driver? If you or a loved one has suffered an injury in an accident caused by the negligence of another, call our injury lawyers now at 916.921.6400 or 800.404.5400 for free, friendly advice.

Editor's Note: updated 11.13.23 Photo by Jonnica Hill on Unsplash

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