Individuals hurt in a Boston car accident may find that the at-fault party is a government employee or operating a vehicle owned by the municipal government. When the driver of a government-owned vehicle causes a collision, the legal doctrine called sovereign immunity takes effect. Throughout the Commonwealth, the Tort Claims Act is the law that will apply in these lawsuits.The purpose of the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act in personal injury lawsuits is to provide protection to state and local governments. According to the Act, there is a limit to the damages awarded in these types of lawsuits. When the negligence of public employees, or their wrongful conduct, causes injuries or loss of property, the Act sets forth a cap on the damages that a plaintiff can recover in a lawsuit.
When assessing a personal injury claim involving a state or local government, courts will often explain the policy rationale behind the Tort Claims Act. Essentially, to be able to perform their functions and protect the public, local governments must receive some protection from constant legal battles. This justification has served to uphold the sovereign immunity doctrine. However, this immunity is limited by the Tort Claims Act, since it does provide a way for individuals harmed by state government employees to bring a lawsuit.
According to the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act, the first step in pursuing a claim involving a government agency is to notify that agency within a specified time period. Missing deadlines can render the claim moot, and it will not be heard. After filing a claim with the appropriate agency, they will have an opportunity to review the claim and pay the damages set forth. When a claim is denied or challenged by the government, the claimant may pursue a lawsuit. When a claim is brought against an allegedly negligent employee, the claim must first be filed with the employer overseeing the employee.
An example of a lawsuit that may be brought under the Act would be for injuries caused by the negligent operation of a government-owned vehicle. The public employer may face legal fault for the resulting harm, if their employee has caused injuries to others while driving. Another example would be a defect within a public building that has led to injuries. When the government employees knew or should have known of a dangerous or defective condition of property, but they failed to take appropriate steps to fix the condition, they may be held accountable for the resulting harm.
Understanding how to pursue a legal claim against the government in Massachusetts after suffering injuries in a vehicle collision may require the guidance of an experienced attorney. Boston car accident lawyer Michael O. Smith represents those hurt by the negligent conduct of others, and he holds all at-fault parties accountable for causing harm. To set up a free consultation and learn more about your legal rights, call our office at (617) 263-0060 or complete our online form.