Just about everyone knows that if you are injured by another person, you probably have a right to seek compensation. What a lot of people do not necessarily know is that this can also apply to the federal government as well as to municipal and state governments. Of course, personal injury claims are not quite as straightforward when the government is involved.
At Hornsby, Watson & Hornsby, our Alabama trial lawyers know the difference between dealing with insurance carriers and dealing with a state bureaucrat. So, here are a few things to consider when reviewing your rights after an injury involving a government agency.
Perhaps all discussions about suing the government need to start with the basic and very fundamental concept of sovereign immunity. This just means that the government is generally considered immune from liability. In other words, you can not sue the State of Alabama. Period. Many states have created actual statutes that waive that immunity in specific situations, but not Alabama.
Under Article 14 of the Alabama Constitution, the state can not be a defendant. Period. It is perhaps the most succinct rule in the law.
A long time ago, however, almost all states realized that people needed some recourse when a government employee did harm. After all, government employees cause crashes and government doctors kill patients due to medical malpractice. Therefore, citizens should have some right to compensation, even if they can not sue the government. Therefore, in Alabama you do have a right to sue state employees if you can prove they were acting contrary to the course and scope of their employment. Still, these are limited actions.
When can You Sue a State Employee for Negligence?
Just about everything is protected when a state employee is acting in the scope of his or her job duties. However, there are limits to the protection. For example, if you are injured by a state employee who runs a red light, the state worker is generally immune from liability unless one of the following applies:
- The U.S. Constitution requires otherwise
- The Alabama Constitution requires otherwise
- Willful conduct
- Malicious intent
- Bad faith
- Acting beyond authority
Time Limits on Bringing a Lawsuit Against a State Agent
Whether you are bringing a lawsuit against a police officer, state truck driver, or some other agent of the government, there are strict limits on how long you can wait. These are very different from the typical statute of limitations in Alabama. In general, you will have just two years from the date of the accident to take action. Be careful to make sure you are really dealing with a state entity and not a municipality or federal government agency. These both have different rules.
Municipal Tort Claims
If you are injured by a county or city employee, you may have a completely different set of options. You can file a formal claim with the municipal government, but you must do so within just six months of your injury. Notice should be given to the municipality directly. This initiates a process by which you can attempt to seek payment for your injuries. Many municipalities will ignore claims and wait to see what you do.
How a Skilled Alabama Injury Lawyer can Help
As soon as you are hurt by someone else’s negligence, you should make an appointment to meet with an injury lawyer. Some people feel uneasy about meeting with an attorney after being hurt, but there is no need to be worried or alarmed. Simply put, you would not buy a new home without getting an inspection, and you probably would not consider signing a large contract without having it reviewed by a lawyer. Think of your free consultation the same way. It is an opportunity to discuss your case, talk about your injuries, and get free advice on how to proceed.
Obviously, we would love it if you would let us help you successfully recover compensation in your case and help you get back on your feet, but if you decide it is not right for you and you do not want to use the services of an attorney, that is fine. We will not charge you a penny.
Just remember that even though the State of Alabama is completely immune from tort liability, there may still be options to help you get your medical bills and lost income reimbursed. However, given the short amount of time you have, it is best to meet with an attorney to go over your options upfront and early. This ensures you can make an informed choice.
At Hornsby, Watson & Hornsby, we are devoted to helping injured people throughout Alabama. Give us a call to discuss your case and see what makes us so different. Calls are free, and there is no obligation.