Can you sue the government for negligence?

July 29, 2020

When you are injured due to someone’s negligence or wrongdoing, usually you can file a lawsuit to recover damages. But, what if a government worker is responsible for your injury – is the government liable for damages? 

The short answer is yes, but it can be a tedious process. Here we discuss the applicable state and federal laws that apply when the government is sued for negligence including when the government is liable for personal injuries, property damage, and harm to your business.

What is Sovereign Immunity?

Sovereign immunity means that the government cannot be sued unless its immunity is waived. The Federal Tort Claims Act waived federal immunity for several types of tort claims. All states have also adopted a local version of this waiver.

Federal Tort Claims Act

The federal government waived its immunity for claims of injury, property loss, and wrongful death by adopting the Federal Tort Claims Act. Basically, if you are injured by the government’s negligence, you can sue the government for damages. For the government to be liable, there must be harm caused by the negligent act of a federal employee or independent contractor treated as a government employee.

California Tort Claims Act

The states have also adopted their own set of laws waiving immunity for certain tort claims. California’s version permits premises liability cases where the government had notice of a dangerous condition that caused an injury and instances where the government is vicariously liable for the negligence of its employee.

When is the Government Liable for Your Injuries?

In short, the government is responsible when a negligent act, performed in the scope of an employee or contractor’s work OR in the course of carrying out a government function, causes an injury. Liability may also flow from injuries caused by dangerous conditions on government property or when a public entity breaches a duty imposed by law causing an injury.

Can the Government be Liable for Property Damage?

California and its municipalities may be liable for money losses or property damage caused by the action or inaction of the public entity. To prove liability, you must file a Notice of Claim with the appropriate government agency within six months of the date of the damage to your personal property or crops. The statute of limitations is extended to one year for damage to real property.

Is the Government Responsible for Your Business Losses?

The facts of your claim are very important in determining whether the government can be held liable for damage to your business. Generally, the government is not responsible for having a passive role in causing harm to a business. However, when damages are caused by the negligent act of someone working for the government and that act was within the scope of their employment, the government may be liable. 

If you were harmed by the negligence of a government employee or if you think you may have a claim against the government, contact our office to discuss your options.

View all Posts

We are here to help.

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

If you have questions, need the advice of a trusted counselor, or simply do not know where to turn, our team is here to help. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

If you are unable to visit us in our office downtown during the week, we are more than happy to meet you at your home or in our office over the weekend. Hablamos espanol.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form