Suing the State for Car Accident Involving Government Worker

In a recent case out of West Virginia, a city settled with a woman who suffered severe injuries as a result of a car accident involving a city employee.
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According to news reports, the woman was driving her vehicle along the interstate when a city worker in a pickup truck changed lanes, causing an unsecured mat and bucket in the back of the vehicle to fly out of the bed of the truck.This subsequently caused the woman to crash into a concrete median. She suffered a head injury that continues to cause her headaches and internal injuries that have resulted in chronic cervical pain.

The woman claimed the city employee had a duty to safely operate the vehicle and failed in that duty.

Because the claim was settled out of court, we don’t know how much she received.

What we do know is that a substantial number of government workers must drive for at least some portion of their job. These include not just the obvious like bus drivers and police officers, but also clerks, engineers, maintenance workers and administrators.

Hundreds of these individuals are involved in North Carolina car accidents annually, and in a fair number of cases, it is determined they are the at-fault.

States vary in the way they handle claims made against state employees.

In North Carolina, negligence lawsuits for car accident injuries caused by state workers must be filed according to the State Tort Claims Act.

A tort claim is one in which you are alleging negligence against another person or entity. The Tort Claims Act allows that even though the state has immunity from being sued by a citizen, the state waives this immunity in certain circumstances.

Per NC General Statutes, Chapter 143 Article 31, Section 143-291, most of these cases are handled by the North Carolina Industrial Commission. For the purposes of tort law injury cases, the commission is considered a court, and as such, is responsible for holding hearings on tort claims against the state and its officers.

The “state” in this case includes the board of education, the board of transportation and “all other departments, institutions and agencies of the state.” Included in this also is any officer, employee, involuntary servant or agent of the state who was acting within the scope of his or her employment.

The commission is responsible for determining:

  • Whether there was negligence on the part of the state;
  • Whether that negligence caused injury to the claimant;
  • Whether the claimant had any contributory negligence.

In cases where negligence and injury are proven (and contributory negligence disproved), the commission will then determine an amount of damages to be paid to the claimant. These damages can include medical expenses and other bills, but total damages are capped at $1 million per claim, per G.S. 143-299.2. That’s the most the state can pay cumulatively to any one person or for any single occurrence.

That means that a single car accident caused by a city employee in the scope of his or her employment and that would result in serious injuries to four people would only garner a maximum of $250,000 per person, if each were to be awarded equal damages.

Keep in mind that in cases of injury, you only have three years from the time of the accident in which to file a claim against the city. If your case involves a wrongful death due, you have just two years.

If you have been injured in a car accident, contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices today by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
Lawsuit against City of Nitro for car accident settled, Dec. 11, 2013, By Kyla Asbury, The West Virginia Record

More Blog Entries:
Martin v. Lawrence: Preparing for an Injury Trial, Dec. 13, 2013, Raleigh Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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