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Personal Injury Claims Against a Government Employee

August 21, 2022 Personal Injury

Injuries can be caused by all types of people in a wide variety of ways. But are there special rules when you are injured by the government or one of its employees?

As you might guess, there are a variety of statutory and constitutional restrictions to protect the government and its employees from liability for negligently injuring others. If a government employee injured you while the government employee was acting within the line and scope of his or her duties, then you need to know these special rules.

The most important question to be considered is whether the government worker who injured you was an employee of a municipality, a county, a state, or even the federal government.

A) Injured by a City Employee

When a city employee, i.e. “municipal” employee, injures you while he is acting within the line and scope of his duties, the most important two special rules to be aware of are the notice of claim statute and potential caps on damages. The statute of limitations is usually two years for personal injury claims in Alabama. However, personal injury claims against city employees must abide by a notice of claim statute. The notice of claim statute effectively acts as a statute of limitations in most situations and shortens the normal statute of limitations.

This statute, Ala. Code §11-47-23, requires an injured person to file a notice of claim within six months of the date of injury. If the injured person does not file such a notice within six months, then that injured person can be prevented from bringing any claim against the city employee.

In addition, the state of Alabama has imposed caps on damages that can be collected from cities in personal injury claims. Ala. Code § 11-47-190 imposes a $100,000 cap on a city’s liability.

B) Injured by a County Employee

The same two issues arise when a person is injured by an Alabama county employee. Alabama counties have their own notice of claim statute, Ala. Code § 11-12-8, which requires an injured person to file a notice of claim within 12 months of being injured. If a notice of claim is not filed within that 12 month period, the injured person can be barred from bringing a personal injury claim. Similar to a city, a county’s liability is also capped at $100,000 pursuant to Ala. Code §11-93-2 in most situations.

C) Injured by an Alabama state employee

The game changes drastically when someone is injured by a state employee. The issue of “immunity” arises in these type of cases. Article 1, Section 14 of the Alabama State Constitution broadly states that “the State of Alabama shall never be made a defendant in any court of law or equity.” However, there are various exceptions to this immunity rule, but they rarely apply.

The most often used exception is to argue that the state employee
was not acting within the line and scope of his job duties when he caused injury to another. If the employee was not acting as a state agent when he caused the injury, then the injured person can hold him personally liable. Another exception is to pursue an “individual capacity” claim against the state employee.

D) Injured by an Employee of the Federal Government

When someone is injured by an employee of the federal government, that person has a right to pursue a claim under the Federal Tort Claims Act (“FTCA”). While the United States is also immune from lawsuits, Congress passed the FTCA just after World War II to allow for injured persons to seek compensation from the federal government when a federal worker negligently causes injury. In other words, the federal government has waived its immunity under certain circumstances.

However, as you might guess, the FTCA provides several special protections for the federal government. The most common special protection is the “discretionary function” exception to liability. The federal government cannot be held liable when the employee who causes injury was performing a task that involved discretion in carrying out a duty imposed by statute or regulation.

If you have been hurt due to the negligence of a government employee, it is best to consult with a lawyer as soon as possible to learn about your rights. Contact Siniard Law for your free consultation with a personal injury attorney.