Government Vehicle Accidents


It may be entertaining to watch scenes on television or in the movies where police cars chase suspects at high rates of speed, careening into other vehicles and even people, or when ambulances race through intersections, causing massive pileups in their wake.  While this may be exciting to watch on television, what happens in the world of reality when government vehicles cause accidents that injure or kill people?

In some cases, government vehicles and their operators may have what is known as immunity from liability.  Precisely because they respond to an emergency and act in public welfare, operators of government vehicles and the public entities that own them are given a wide breadth of latitude in the duty of care they are expected to exercise.  Once emergency personnel activates their vehicle's siren and flashing red lights, their conduct is measured by the standard of care that applies to a reasonable person under similar circumstances, including in an emergency.

However, a driver of an emergency vehicle should not cause an accident while responding to one.  Drivers of any emergency vehicle--fire engines, ambulances, police cars--should exercise a duty of care that is reasonable under the circumstances when responding to an emergency.  Failure to exercise such a duty of care creates liability.

Tort Claims Against Government Entities Under State and Federal Law

Suing the government for causing an accident requires intricate knowledge of the Federal Tort Claims Act and the California Tort Claims Act.  Only an attorney experienced in claims against government entities can fully protect your rights and ensure that you receive just compensation for your physical, emotional, and financial damages.

Filing a lawsuit against governmental entities under both the Federal Tort Claims Act and the California Tort Claims Act, or CTCA, requires that a person file a claim within 180 days, or six months, from the date of their injury or the death of their loved one.  The statute of limitations, the timeframe by which you must file your case, is dramatically shorter than that for other personal injury claims, which is typically two years.  

While the main reason for the aforementioned 6-month timeframe is to give the government notice of any defects of dangers it needs to address and to allow it to budget for any settlements and trials, in reality, it affords the government a huge advantage over a public that is largely unaware of this time constraint.

This is another reason why consulting with an auto accident attorney experienced in bringing claims against government entities will protect your rights.  Governmental immunity is extremely difficult to overcome, and filing a claim in time is only the first hurdle of many in these types of cases.  Specifically, the federal and state tort claims acts have many complicated procedural and notice provisions that present potential traps for an inexperienced attorney or layperson.

Speak with an Experienced Injury Lawyer Now to Discuss Your Case

While it may seem as if the government vehicles most likely to be involved in accidents would be emergency vehicles such as police, fire, and EMT vehicles, the truth of the matter is that many other types of government vehicles cause accidents daily.  

School bus transportation-related accidents, accidents involving road construction vehicles and equipment, and even collisions with post office vehicles occur all too frequently.  Knowing what evidence to obtain, what public entity to pursue, and what law--federal or state--applies are all critical factors to obtaining a successful outcome for someone who was injured or lost a loved one in an accident with a government vehicle.

Sacramento Personal Injury Lawyer

Have you or a loved one suffered an injury in an accident caused by another driver? I’m Ed Smith, a Sacramento Auto Accident Attorney with the primary accident information site on the web, If you or a loved one has suffered an injury in an accident caused by the negligence of another, call our injury lawyers now at 916.921.6400 or 800.404.5400 for free, friendly advice.

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Editor’s Note: This page has been updated for accuracy and relevancy [cha 4.14.21]

Photo by Jonnica Hill on Unsplash

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