Accidents happen and can involve anyone. But when you are involved in a car accident with a government vehicle, it adds a new layer of complexity to an already complicated and difficult situation.
Why does it matter who owns the vehicle?
After an accident with a private individual, in most cases, you would be able to file a claim with her insurance company to pay for your injuries and property damage. However, if you sustain injuries in an accident with a government-owned vehicle, the notion of sovereign or governmental immunity may affect your ability to pursue a claim.
What does sovereign or governmental immunity mean?
The notion of sovereign or governmental immunity provides protection to a city, county, state, or federal government for actions of its employees under certain specific conditions. And there are therefore limits on what claims victims can file against those entities under the law.
However, under RCW § 4.92.100, Washington State waives its sovereign immunity for “damages arising out of its tortious conduct to the same extent as if it were a private person or corporation.” In other words, Washington State can be liable in situations where its employees act negligently.
Similarly, local governmental agencies in Washington State also waive their immunity in negligence claims, according to RCW § 4.96.010
What is the process for bringing a claim against a government entity?
Although both the City of Seattle and Washington State have waived their rights to claim sovereign immunity as a defense to an action for tortious conduct, it is imperative to follow all appropriate steps when pursuing either:
- To begin, you must file using the City of Seattle Claim for Damages Form or the State of Washington Standard Tort Claim Form. You must include your name and contact information, a description of the incident and any damages, and a listing of all relevant persons with their contact information.
- You must file the damages form prior to filing a lawsuit. There is a 60-day waiting period after the filing of the claim.
You must file a claim within three years of the accident.
Are there any exceptions?
According to RCW § 46.61.035, while authorized emergency vehicles may run red lights and stop signs, speed, and go the wrong way on roads when responding to an emergency, drivers still must drive with “due regard for the safety of all persons.” In other words, if the emergency vehicle hit you, unless the driver was behaving recklessly or not responding to a call, you may not have a claim for damages.
Because of the potential exceptions and strict claims process, involving a Seattle car accident attorney is in your best interests. If you or someone you care about sustained injuries in an automobile accident with a government vehicle, contact Max Meyers Law PLLC at 425-399-7000 today.