Wrongful death cases are always difficult to endure because they involve the untimely passing of a loved one. Numerous parties, including government entities or agencies, might be named in wrongful death cases.
While it is possible to sue a government agency or entity for the wrongful death of a loved one, such cases tend to have greater restrictions than those involving private defendants. For example, plaintiffs are often required to submit a notice of their claim to the relevant government agency very quickly, making for tight deadlines. Examples of wrongful death claims against government entities include accidents caused by government employees, construction accidents involving public works, and accidents from a failure to maintain public areas like roads. Sometimes, government entities are protected from liability by their sovereign immunity. While this might put a damper on some claims, immunity is often not absolute. An attorney might help you overcome this immunity. Also, note that damages are often capped in cases against government entities.
Call our Maryland wrongful death attorneys at (410) 694-7291 and set up a private case review for no cost with us at Rice, Murtha & Psoras.
Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Against a Government Agency or Entity
If you recently lost a family member under wrongful circumstances, you can sue the person, people, or entity you believe is responsible, including the government. While suing government entities for wrongful death is possible, it is often more difficult than suing ordinary people. Generally, there are stricter deadlines and more hoops to jump through.
One very important aspect of your case you should discuss with an attorney is the time you must file your claim. When you sue a private person or organization, you typically have to file before the normal statute of limitations expires. This statute varies by state but usually gives people a few years to get their claims into court.
When you sue the government, there are additional requirements with much shorter deadlines. For example, many states require people suing the government to submit a notice of their claims to the relevant government entity or agency within only a few months. In many states, a deadline of 2 to 3 months is common.
If you do not serve notice to the government within this time frame, you risk losing your right to sue. Our wrongful death attorneys can help you determine the deadlines and rules you have to follow when suing the government for the loss of your beloved family member.
Examples of Wrongful Death Claims Against Government Agencies
There are many ways in which the government might be implicated in a wrongful death case. Generally, many such cases involve terrible accidents on government property or caused by government employees. It can be tricky to tell if the government is responsible in some cases, and you should speak to a lawyer immediately.
Negligent government employees cause many wrongful death accidents. For example, suppose your loved one passed away after a terrible accident involving a bus part of the city’s public transportation network. In that case, you might have a valid claim against the city. Since public buses are often owned and operated by local government, bus drivers are often considered government employees. You can sue the government agency in charge of public transportation for the wrongful death of your loved one.
Just remember, not all public transit is government-owned. Some cities have contracts with transit companies, making them quasi-private and more complicated to deal with.
Construction accidents involving public works might also lead to wrongful death claims against the government. This might involve accidents on construction projects like public roadways, bridges, or buildings. Even if the contractors are part of a private business, they likely have a contract with the government, and the government might own the land where the construction is happening.
Many fatal accidents happen because the government failed to maintain public areas safely. One example, albeit a bit unusual, is a bridge collapse. The government is in charge of making sure parts of our public infrastructure, like bridges, are up to code and safe to use. If a bridge collapses, people might be gravely injured, and the government might be responsible.
Are Government Entities Immune from Wrongful Death Claims?
Suing the government is not like suing any other person or organization. The government is often shielded from liability under certain circumstances. The reason behind the idea of sovereign immunity is that the government must be able to function without worrying about potential lawsuits if things go wrong. While immunity might hinder your case, it is rarely absolute, and your Parkville wrongful death lawyer can help you determine if there is a way around it.
One example is when a government employee caused a fatal accident. In other cases, you could sue the person who caused the accident in addition to their boss if the accident happened during the employee’s normal job duties. The government might have immunity from vicarious liability and be shielded from your lawsuit. Instead, you might only be able to sue the employee.
Government entities might also exercise immunity in cases of premises liability. This would include cases where someone passes away because of injuries sustained due to dangerous conditions on government-owned or public property. However, immunity might be waived if the government had actual or constructive notice of the dangerous conditions and chose to ignore them.
Damages and Compensation in Wrongful Death Claims Against Government Entities
While damages in wrongful death claims are commonly high, you might be limited by statutory damage caps imposed on cases against government entities. Damage caps limit the compensation a plaintiff may receive from the defendant for certain injuries. Even if your actual damages exceed these limits, the court may have to reduce your compensation to align with statutory caps.
Statutory caps on damages are very common for cases involving government defendants. While economic damages are often uncapped, non-economic damages for things like emotional or psychological distress are not. The exact limits in your case will depend on your state. In some states, damage caps are adjusted each year. In many states, punitive damages are also limited or even barred completely. Talk to your lawyer about possible damages caps in your case.
Contact Our Wrongful Death Lawyers for Help Suing a Government Entity
Call our Mount Airy, MD wrongful death lawyers at (410) 694-7291 and set up a private case review for no cost with us at Rice, Murtha & Psoras.