When a negligent party causes an accident, the victim has the right to sue that party for damages. But what happens if the at-fault party happens to be the government or a government employee?
For instance, can you sue the city for a car accident that one of its drivers caused? Doing so is possible, but the rules are different compared to taking legal action against a private citizen or business.
Retaining a law firm that knows these rules is critical to obtaining the compensation you deserve. Sevenish Law Firm is here to represent Indianapolis personal injury victims in their claims against city governments.
What to Know About the Indiana Tort Claims Act
The Indiana Tort Claims Act is the main state law that deals with personal injury lawsuits (a type of tort claim) against the state government, political subdivisions of the state (e.g. cities), and public employees.
This law allows government employees who are acting within the scope of their official duties to be held liable for injuries they cause to others. However, this only applies to claims that are expressly permitted by law. In other cases, Indiana state and local governments are shielded from private party lawsuits because of a legal principle known as sovereign immunity.
What Can You Sue a City Government For?
The Indiana Tort Claims Act specifically permits the following types of lawsuits to be filed against a city government:
- Car accidents involving a government-owned vehicle
- Dangerous conditions in a government building (e.g. one that causes a slip and fall)
- Medical malpractice claims involving a government-owned healthcare facility
- Other situations not specifically excluded by the law
Compensation may include economic (e.g. medical bills and lost wages) and non-economic (such as pain and suffering) damages, but not punitive damages. The cap on personal injury claims, such as those involving car accidents, is $700,000 per individual and $5,000,000 total for all victims involved.
Examples of Automobile Accident Claims Against a City Government
Because car accident lawsuits involving a government vehicle are specifically permitted, this opens the door to several types of claims such as those involving a city worker who was:
- Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol: this includes prescription medication if it impaired the driver’s ability to safely operate the vehicle.
- Driving while distracted: distracted driving comes in many forms and can include cell phone use, texting while driving, listening to the radio, and doing anything else that takes the driver’s attention off the road.
- Driving a vehicle that had not been properly maintained or repaired: these cases can be complicated depending on whether a government-owned or private shop did the work, but we can help determine which party should be held liable.
- Violating traffic laws: speeding, running a stop sign or traffic light, failing to yield, and other traffic violations can give rise to these claims.
- Making unsafe lane changes: included here are drivers who negligently fail to check their blind spots, weave in and out of lanes, or otherwise make unsafe movements.
- Transporting something that fell off the vehicle: a driver must ensure that the load he or she is transporting is secure, otherwise it could fall off the vehicle and cause a major accident.
There are cases in which road conditions may give rise to a lawsuit against a city. However, these are limited by the Indiana Tort Claims Act. For example, the law expressly prohibits car accident claims caused by:
- Temporary road conditions caused by the weather
- The condition of unpaved roads
- Highway or roadway design or maintenance, as long as the road is in a “reasonably safe” condition
There may be a dispute about whether these specific exemptions apply to a particular case. For instance, if the accident was caused by a road condition, was it “reasonably safe”? An attorney can evaluate your case and advise you as to any limits imposed by the statute.
Important Notice Requirements and Time Limits for Suing a City
State law requires that in order to file an automobile accident lawsuit against a city government, an Indiana tort claim notice must first be filed. This is a major difference between maintaining a suit against a governmental unit and a private party. The notice must be filed with both the government body being sued (the city, in this case) and the Indiana political subdivision risk management commission.
Another important difference between these types of lawsuits and private ones is the statute of limitations. You only have 180 days after your car accident to file your notice of claim. After it is filed, you must wait 90 days to file the lawsuit. During this time, the city will likely investigate the allegations made against it and decide whether to settle.
Injured in a Car Accident With a City Vehicle? Attorney Randall Sevenish is Here to Help
You can sue a city for a car accident, but the time limit to do so is very short. Therefore it is strongly advised that you seek the services of an experienced attorney as soon as possible after your wreck. Our firm can help ensure that the proper steps are followed and that your notice and lawsuit paperwork are timely filed and correctly served. We can also help with any negotiations and assist you with the proper steps to take if the city refuses to fairly settle the claim. Reach out to Sevenish Law Firm’s Indianapolis office today.