Getting into a car accident with another driver can be stressful enough. Finding out that driver is on duty as a government agent or operating a government vehicle can add another element to your claim. Instead of going up against a fellow driver, you may be filing a claim against a government entity, such as your local police or fire department. Claims against the government in Georgia come with unique requirements and stipulations.
Who Can Be Held Liable for Damages?
Georgia is a fault-based car insurance state, with rules that place accident liability with the person who caused the crash. Drivers who work for the government are not exempt from the tort-based insurance law. If a government worker such as a police officer, firefighter or social worker causes your car accident while on duty performing work-related tasks or activities, that driver could be liable for your damages. Due to the rules of vicarious liability, however, a worker’s liability could become the employer’s responsibility.
If you discover the driver who negligently or recklessly crashed into you was on the clock as a government agent or employee, the government entity for which he or she works could be vicariously liable for damages. This could mean you will file your car accident insurance claim with the county, state or federal government instead of against the individual driver. The entity could also be responsible if it contributed directly to the crash, such as by negligently failing to ensure the roadworthiness of government vehicles.
Time Limit to File a Claim Against a Government Entity
A car accident claim against a government agency, entity or individual follows different rules than typical crash claims in Georgia. One of the major changes is your statute of limitations or time limit to file. Typically, you would have two years from the date of your auto accident (or the date you discovered your injury) to file a claim against the person responsible under Georgia’s personal injury statute of limitations.
If the defendant in your case is a government entity, however, you will have just one year to give written notice to the entity. You or your car accident attorney in Gwinnett County may mail the notice or deliver it in person to the Risk Management Division of the Department of Administrative Services. Missing this deadline generally means forfeiting the right to seek compensation from the government entity for your damages. Once you submit the notice, you must wait 90 days – or until you receive a notice of claim denial – to proceed with an action.
Georgia Tort Claims Act: Potential Personal Injury Claims
Car accident cases involving government vehicles can be tricky due to special rules that protect the government from liability. These rules, known as sovereign liability laws, are in place to protect government agencies from financial strife and bankruptcy. Many states, including Georgia, have passed Tort Claims Act allowing for civil actions against the government in certain circumstances.
The Georgia Tort Claims Act allows the filing of an injury claim against a government entity for the actions of an individual who was acting within the scope of his or her official duties of employment, as long as the employee’s action is not one of the listed exceptions. These exceptions include during a civil disturbance or riot, for intentional torts, and while the employee was exercising due care in carrying out a statute.
In general, you will have grounds to file a damage claim against a government entity in Georgia if it or one of its drivers negligently contributed to your auto accident. If a police officer crashed into you while driving distracted, for example, the police department may have to pay for your medical bills and property repairs. Navigating government tort claims in Georgia, however, can be difficult. You may need to hire an attorney to represent you in the fight for fair compensation.