Suing the Government for Your Injury

In a difficult scene in the movie “90 Minutes in Heaven”, a lawyer had to inform the family of a catastrophically injured client that any lawsuit they might bring against the state government would be severely capped and that their recovery would be very limited. In the movie the crash involved a state vehicle that was driven by a prison inmate on work release. There was clear negligence in that the prisoner crossed the center line. None of that mattered though because the state limited its liability by statute.

The legal mechanism by which recoveries are limited against government defendants is called “sovereign immunity” or sometimes “governmental immunity”. Governments basically restrict how, when, and for how much you can sue them. For example, the Federal Government requires that an injured party present a completed Form-95 claim form to it spelling out all aspects of your claim before you can sue them in court. In Indiana, to sue the state and most local governments, a Tort Claim Notice similarly has to be presented within a relatively short period of time after an incident, and the notice has to spell out the basis of the claim, and if the injured party fails to provide the proper notice, that failure can be used against the claimant to bar any recovery.

Does any of this sound fair? From the side of the injured party it does not. From the taxpayer side of the dispute however, it may look better, though not necessarily fair. The theory is that restricting how, when and for how much the government can be sued benefits the taxpayer and prevents the taxpayer from being tagged to pay millions of dollars in claims. There are of course ways around government immunity, which is why you hear sometimes of victims of police shootings being paid millions of dollars.

The bottom-line though, is that in cases where you or a loved one might have a claim against the government, consulting an attorney very soon after the injury-causing accident is critical. Notice deadlines (in some cases just a few short months) can quickly pass and action must be taken before such deadlines expire. If you have need of legal help suing the government for an injury, please call. Our attorneys are always available to help you determine your rights and legal options.

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