Getting in an auto accident with anyone can be frightening, and lead to very lengthy and costly battles with insurance companies, parties involved or the court system. For the most part, the laws that apply to any vehicle accident are the same. However, many people wonder if those laws apply if you are involved in an accident with a government vehicle in New Orleans Louisiana.
This article will help shed some light on why governments are often held to different standards when it comes to liability in an automotive accident, and what you can expect if you find yourself in such a situation. Although the rules may differ, it’s important that you get an experienced and qualified vehicle accident attorney involved early in the process to ensure your rights are protected.
Sovereign Immunity in Louisiana
To start, it’s important to know that governments actually have to consent to be sued. Under the legal doctrine of “sovereign immunity”, there are a set of rules that established when an individual can sue the government. For the most part, these rules cover most situations, including injuries caused by an auto accident.
Sovereign immunity was established to protect government entities and their employees from civil suits by individuals. Thus, any government, including federal, state, city and parish government agencies must waive this immunity and grant permission for you to sue them.
In Louisiana, sovereign immunity rules are established under the Louisiana Governmental Claims Act, or LGCA. Under the LGCA, you are required to first file a claim before you can take any legal action against the government or its agents. The reason for this is that the government would rather settle your claim rather than being sued.
Filing a Claim Against the Government
Although car accidents can be troublesome, they are actually one of the easier situations in which you can sue the government. Beware, however, you only have 180 days after the accident to file a claim. If you miss this, you cannot recover from the government.
In New Orleans, claims are handled by the Risk Management Unit (RMU). The RMU will evaluate the facts presented, including any report of investigation and review all claims with the appropriate departments. The Unit will then determine whether your claim is accepted or denied. If your claim is denied, your next step is to file suit in court.
Under section 5106 of the LGCA, the total liability for personal injury or wrongful death claims is $500,000. This includes the total cost of any property damage, medical care, and loss of current or future earnings. However, as opposed to individuals or insurance companies, you may have to wait awhile before you actually see any money come from the government.
The City of New Orleans is self-insured, meaning that the City Council must approve an annual budget to pay out for any lawsuits filed against the government. And because the city cannot spend over this approved budget amount, you may have to wait a long time before you see any of the proceeds from an accident.
If you are involved in a vehicle accident with a city government vehicle, the process is not the same as most accidents. Because of the nuances involved and the strict deadlines the government imposes, it’s important to get help from experienced attorneys that know the process and can help you get the compensation you deserve.