Being the victim of a personal injury accident can be a tragic experience. However, it could be even worse if the culprit was a government or state employee. This would be because of the difficulties of the criminal procedure in prosecuting public charges. Still, with proper legal representation, it should be a simpler process. Due to the high number of government workers, suffering negligence that leads to filing a lawsuit against a public employee for personal injury does not seem like a rare event.
An estimated 15% of U.S. citizens work in federal, state, or government jobs. That’s 20 million people in hospital care, education, or law enforcement, among others. If there are that many workers spread out in schools, police stations, and hospitals, how likely is it that any of them will commit negligence or misconduct that results in personal injury to citizens?
These are your legal options if you want to file a lawsuit against a government employee for personal injury.
Anyone Has the Right to File a Claim Against a Public Entity or a State or Federal Worker
Yes, as part of your rights, you can obviously sue a person employed in the public service or an entity. This can involve both individual and collective cases, including any act of negligent or wrongful conduct committed by a government agency or employee. However, the procedures to initiate legal action are complicated. It is highly recommended that, in the case of a complaint, you obtain expert legal representation during the entire process.
What is the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA)?
The first thing to do when considering reporting a public employee is to understand the Federal Tort Claims Act. Although it is not necessary to learn all the details, it is important to know what it means. Interestingly, until Congress enacted the law around the middle of the twenty century, no citizen could sue the government, no matter how right they were. At that time, the federal government was considered infallible: it always won.
Passed in 1946, this law is the legal basis that allows citizens to sue a public employee or entity. This includes any individual employed in federal, state, or local government, to public agencies.
While this law can be filed by any individual, legal counsel is advised. With the help of an experienced attorney, the chances of winning the case and, consequently, obtaining a high financial award are greatly increased.
However, it is not only necessary to know what the FTCA is. It is recommended to be aware of the notice requirements, time limitations, and other legal procedures involved in the process. Having the services of an experienced lawyer in a personal injury involving public workers would allow you to resolve these questions quickly.
Statute of Limitations for California Public Employee Injury Cases
Before filing a lawsuit against a government employee or entity alleging personal injury, it is necessary to file an administrative notice or claim. Although it is advised that the notice needs to be filed as soon as possible, the time frame is quite extensive. However, this varies depending on where you reside. In California, as in most states, the time frame for sending this notice is two years from the date of the negligence.
What is the purpose of this notice of claim? Its objective is to announce to government officials about injuries caused by a public office or agency. The notice of claim relies on Standard Form 95 (SF95), which is normally completed by an attorney. It must specifically detail what you wish to sue for and the damages suffered. It also states the compensation you are seeking, as well as other information related to the accident. These specifics will help the government investigate the incident further.
From the time the claim is filed, the government has six months to review it and provide a response. During this time, the administration may offer a financial settlement to the claimant. If no settlement is reached or no response has been obtained, a lawsuit can be filed in federal court. Normally, there are another six months to file a formal complaint. This, however, depends on the state where you live.
Potential Causes of a Lawsuit Against a Government Employee for Personal Injury
In cases of accidents in the workplace, the employer or company is usually liable. In the case of incidents within a public work environment, the state is responsible.
However, if an individual holding a public job leaves his or her workspace, or is not performing his or her duties within his or her schedule, the state would not be liable. The charge would be for a private individual. For example, if a public employee has a car accident while going to lunch, the state could not be accused, but rather the individual. Nevertheless, each case is different and has to be reviewed in detail.
Car Accidents Due to Negligence
Suffering a car accident often results in negative health consequences. While most car collisions occur between citizens, many are also caused by government workers. The aftermath in the form of personal injuries can be moderate, and severe, but can also lead to death.
Among all possible incidents, car accidents caused by a government employee are one of the easiest cases to win. Especially crashes caused by emergency vehicles. Emergency vehicles, driving in a hurry to get to their destination through intersections or on busy roads, are more prone to crashes. However, you must prove that the person responsible for such a vehicle was negligent. For example, failing to have sirens on or driving without lights.
The government vehicles most often involved in accidents are:
- Fire trucks
- Police patrols
- Military or agency vehicles such as the FBI or DEA
- U.S. Postal Service mail transport trucks
- City bus
Misconduct is one of the most frequent cases when it comes to reporting a government worker for personal injury. Within misconduct, there are many types of negligence involved. This can include discrimination, racism, verbal abuse, abuse of power, or physical aggression, among many others.
According to data provided by the government, the number of federal employees who are sued for misconduct is low. Approximately less than 1% of the total workforce engages in misconduct. That implies almost 17,000 employees. Based on the most recent 2016 report, that year federal agencies conducted 10,249 suspensions, 7,411 removals, and 114 demotions for misconduct.
Depending on the nature of the misconduct, a federal, local, or state agency may apply a range of disciplinary measures. Normally, a notice is given before disciplinary procedures are applied. Fines or penalties can range from letters of reprimand, 14-day suspensions, withholding of pay, or outright removal.
There are many examples of public employees in California who commit misconduct offenses that are brought to justice. In the last few years, we have seen a prison officer sending nude photos to a fellow officer, officers lying about police reports, complaints to a San Jose police officer or code of conduct inspector for misconduct, abuse of power by an AUSA prosecutor, etc.
Sexual Harassment/Sexual Abuse
Within misconduct, sexual harassment is one of the most prevalent behaviors. Litigation by individuals alleging some form of sexual misconduct tends to occur more in certain types of public jobs. One of the most notorious cases involved Leslie Tucker, an employee of the United States Postal Service (USPS). At the beginning of the century, Tucker was arrested for multiple allegations of sexual misconduct while on his route as a postal worker.
Pain and Suffering
This type of damage usually comes as a result of serious injury or death. The anguish and grief that some accidents can cause may affect the victim or family for life.
However, these types of claims are a little more complicated to file. These are injuries that cannot be measured, as there are no medical reports to prove the psychological pain caused. But, based on different supporting documents that justify the emotional anxiety, a lawyer can calculate approximate future compensation.
Some examples of personal injury claims against a public employee for pain and suffering are physical pain due to the rehabilitation process, psychological trauma or crisis resulting from the accident, emotional deterioration due to the injuries resulting in a decrease in quality of life, negative impact of the accident on personal relationships, etc.
In addition to being able to sue for personal injuries, it is also possible to sue for property damage. If a public official, during his/her workday, performs a negligent act that destroys or damages any property, the victim has the right to make a claim.
According to the State of California, legal action may be brought against anyone working for the government who destroys or damages another person’s assets, diminishing their economic value.
Depending on the conduct employed, the severity of the damage caused and the location, settlement may vary. The higher the damage, the higher the compensation.
But, in which cases can you sue? In all those where the action or inaction of a public employee or entity has caused negligence that adversely affects your property or assets. Ranging from an ambulance colliding with a citizen vehicle, to vehicular impacts of postal workers to a house, possible fires caused negligently, invasions and deterioration of property, or even if an employee spoils electric or telephone supply lines.
Poor Condition of the Public Environment
The state is also liable for any personal injuries that occur in public places. This is also known as Premises Liability. These cases cover situations where the state has failed to take proper and/or reasonable care of the conditions of the space. Therefore, as a result of an unsafe environment, a negligent accident with injuries has occurred.
Some public places where individuals may suffer personal injuries include:
- Post offices
- Public transportation
- Public schools
- Police station
This means that, for example, if you drink water from a public fountain in a park and become ill, you may be able to obtain compensation. Likewise, you can also complain if you trip on the sidewalk because of the poor condition of the pavement.
Would You Like to Sue a Government Employee for Personal Injury? Adamson Ahdoot Can Help You
Generally, government worker claims tend to have the same theories of negligence as other cases. As we learned, the only difficulty with these lawsuits is the legal process. Although it is a slightly more complicated process, if you have the help of experts, you stand a good chance of winning your case. To do so, you must seek legal advice from Adamson Ahdoot’s team of lawyers.
With our legal team on your side, you can make sure you meet all the requirements. Both in terms of notification and deadlines. As well as implementing key strategies to win your case.
But, what do you need to do to get compensation for personal injury due to the negligence of an individual or government entity? Basically, you must prove that the responsible person or agency breached its duty of care. To do this, you will work with your attorney to gather evidence. You will need proof that the negligence took place on state property, or that the negligence occurred during the public employee’s working hours. Furthermore, it is necessary to prove that such a breach resulted in the personal injuries claimed.
Essentially, in order to demonstrate that you have been the victim of an accident at the hands of a public official or entity and thus qualify for compensation, you must rely on the 4 elements of negligence.
We, the Adamson Ahdoot team, can ensure that your case will succeed. As we have done for dozens of clients who have sued public employees, the State of California, or the government, we can also help you get the justice and financial compensation you deserve. Call us today at (800) 310-1606 to schedule a free consultation to learn more about your legal options.