What Happens If You're in a Car Accident with a Federal Vehicle?

What happens if you're in an accident with a car that's owned by the federal government? If you live or work anywhere near a federal building, the odds are good that there are at least a few of those types of cars on the road, and accidents do happen. Normally, the federal government enjoys what is known as the right of "sovereign immunity," which prevents people from suing the government for the negligent acts of their employees—which is the direct opposite of how things normally work in the private sector. If you're injured in an accident caused by a government vehicle, where does that leave you?

Use the Federal Tort Claims Act 

Fortunately, the Federal Tort Claims Act provides victims of negligent acts by government employees some relief when a car-accident happens. However, you can't just file a car-accident lawsuit against the federal government the way that you normally would against a private defendant.

Follow Specific Steps to Get Results

In order to file a civil claim over an auto accident against the federal government, you have to take specific steps.

  1. Contact the agency involved and ask to file a claim. If you are required to file the claim with a parent agency, you'll be directed to the appropriate place from there.
  2. You will have to support your claim with as much information as possible so that the government can investigate your claim.
  3. If the government finds that your claim is justified, it may pay all or part of what you are asking.
  4. If the government denies your claim or pays less than what you believe you are owed, you are then free to file an actual lawsuit.

Claims against the government are heard by a judge, not a jury, and that is one major difference in how the case will proceed if you are unable to come to an agreement.

Know When the Government Is Liable

The government is usually liable when the driver of the car is "on the clock." For example, if the driver is a federal agent who is traveling to an investigation, and he or she rear-ends you, that's an example of a driver that's clearly in the middle of work duties.

There may be some gray areas when the employee isn't specifically on the clock but is returning the car to a carpool after hours or is taking a detour in between assignment.

Because you may be subject to time limitations when it comes to filing a claim, don't hestiate—contact an attorney, such as one from Carter & Fulton, P.S., as soon as you are able to discuss your case.