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 and considering
whether to bring a tort claim against the government.
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
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
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
- The Alabama Constitution requires
- 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 tort 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.