Mississippi School Bus or Government Vehicle Accident Cases
As anyone who has ever tried is well aware, it can be extremely difficult to sue the government, whether federal, state, city, town or county. That being said, it can be done. Government entities enjoy a protection known as sovereign immunity or government immunity. This means that if you are involved in an accident with a Mississippi school bus or government vehicle, the laws have established situations where you can and cannot sue the government. Sovereign immunity dates back to England law which basically says that “the King can do no wrong.” In our current society, sovereign immunity still protects Mississippi governmental officials to a degree.
State Tort Claims Acts Limit Immunity for State, County and City Governments
Despite the fact that sovereign immunity protected federal, state and county governments and their employees from being sued, in the mid-1900’s, a trend toward accountability for governmental entities began. The Federal Tort Claims Act was passed in 1946 by the federal government. This Act waived immunity to lawsuits and liabilities for some actions. Today, most states operate under a state tort claims act, which is modeled after the Federal Tort Claims Act. These state tort claims acts are yet another type of statute, limiting immunity for state governments, and establishing procedures for claims against the state. Most state do, however, limit damages as well as providing for exceptions to liability.
Damages May Be Limited
Plaintiffs who bring a personal injury case against a state, county or city entity in the state of Mississippi for a car accident involving a government vehicle, may claim the following damages: pain and suffering, medical and dental expenses, lost wages, property losses and loss of consortium. There are special rules, such as the fact that there is little time in which to file such a claim. In fact, in many jurisdictions, you could have as little as 30-180 days in which to file a claim. Should you miss that crucial deadline, you could lose your right to recover damages altogether.
Police vehicles, emergency vehicles, public school buses, city vehicles, county vehicles and fire department vehicles all fall under the governmental immunity exceptions. While you can sue a governmental entity, the threshold for showing a governmental employee is at fault is usually substantially higher, and most of the time gross negligence or reckless conduct must be shown. If you were injured by an emergency vehicle during a real emergency (and the vehicle had its lights and sirens on), your case is likely to be much more complex—all the more reason to seek expert advice.
In most cases when you are involved in an auto accident with another person (not a governmental entity), you are entitled to be made whole by the wrongdoer. In cases with governmental entities, without a strong legal advocate in your corner, you could find yourself stuck with your medical expenses and damages, even if the accident was not at all your fault.
Claims Filed Under the Federal Tort Claims Act
When your claim is filed under the Federal Tort Claims Act, the following rules apply:
- You have two years from the date of your accident to file an administrative claim;
- You must specifically describe the facts surrounding your claim in order to allow the government entity to conduct a thorough investigation. You must also include a specific dollar amount for damages which includes your medical expenses and other damages.
- In most cases, you will have an answer to your claim within six months.
- If the government agrees with your version of the facts, you will receive compensation for your injury, whether the specific amount you requested, or any portion of that.
- If your claim is denied, you may file a lawsuit over your injuries, however you must do so within six months of that denial.
Hazardous roadway conditions may also allow you to file a claim for injuries and damages, if the following conditions were responsible for your car accident:
- Significant pavement edge drops;
- Improperly marked construction zones, or construction zones with no markings;
- Line-of-sight obstructions;
- Some roadside hazards, and
- Unreasonably dangerous railroad crossings.
Claims Filed Under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act
Claims brought against a governmental entity under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act are limted by statute so that the total amount of damages that can be recovered per incident is $500,000.00. It doesn’t matter how many people were injured, how horrific the conduct of the state actor was, or how bad the injuries or high the medical expenses run….the same limits apply. With that being said, not all governmental claims are properly brought under the Mississippi Tort Claims Act, leaving claimants the opportunity to bring claims in Federal Court where damages for certain Constitutional violations are without damage caps. The facts of each case are different, making it very important to seek out competent Mississippi legal counsel at the onset to advise you of your rights under the law.
Getting the Legal Help You Deserve
If you believe your automobile accident involves government liability, it is absolutely time to discuss your case with an attorney from Stroud, Flechas & Dalton. The rules related to filing a lawsuit against a governmental entity are very complex, requiring a strict set of procedural rules. Because your time to file a suit against the government is so short, it is very important that you allow an attorney from Stroud, Flechas & Dalton to navigate the complexities. If you are in the Southaven, Olive Branch, Horn Lake or Desoto area and you believe that you have a claim against a governmental entity, you can call our firm and speak to an experienced, knowledgeable attorney. We believe in protecting your rights and your future, and will work hard to those ends on your behalf. Call Stroud, Flechas & Dalton today at (662) 536-5656.