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Government Tort Claims Lawsuits

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Personal Injury Claims Against the Government

While most personal injury cases involve claims against individuals in their personal capacity, it is not uncommon for people to be injured as the result of negligence on the part of a governmental entity or employee. For example, many people are hurt in slip and falls on public property or are involved in car accidents with government vehicles.

As demonstrated below, the process of pursuing a claim against a governmental entity or agency is complicated and involves multiple steps. And because these requirements are statutory, the failure to meet them may well be fatal to your case.

Below is a primer on these requirements, although it should go without saying that employing the services of a skilled and experienced attorney is critical to obtaining a favorable outcome to your case.

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Claims Against the State of Maryland

If you or a loved in is injured as a result of the negligence of a state agency or employee, you may have a claim against the State of Maryland. However, before you can file any lawsuit, you have to follow the rules set forth in the Maryland Tort Claims Act, found in the Section 12 of the State Government Article of the Maryland Code.

This code provision essentially grants permission for a state government entity to be sued. However, under the statute, you are required to provide notice of the claim to the State of Maryland and the specific agency involved within one (1) year of the date of the incident.

In addition, the law mandates that you include certain information in your notice letter, including:

(1) the name and address of the individuals involved,

(2) a statement of how, where and when the injury occurred,

(3) a description of the injury and

(4) a demand for money damages. Under the Maryland Tort Claims Act, the most a single person can recover for an injury sustained as a result of the negligence of a state agency or employee is $400,000.

The State will then investigate your claim and provide a response.

Assuming the State denies the claim or declines to make a reasonable settlement offer, you can then file a lawsuit as you would in any other situation. However, two important things to bear in mind are

(1) independent of the notice requirements under the statute, you still have three (3) years from the date of the incident to file the lawsuit and

(2) if you did not provide notice within one (1) year or your notice was deemed deficient under the statute, the government can move to dismiss the lawsuit on that basis.

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Claims Against a Local Government or County/City

As with the State of Maryland, you can sue an employee of a city, county or other local government if you are injured by that employee’s negligence. However, there are very similar rules and provisions that apply to these local government claims, set forth in Section 5 of the Courts and Judicial Proceedings Article of the Maryland Code.

Very similar to the above-referenced state requirements, you are required to provide notice of the claim to the applicable local governmental entity within one (1) year of the date of the incident.

Moreover, the local government requirements also mandate that you include certain information in your notice letter, including:

(1) the name and address of the individuals involved,

(2) a statement of how, where and when the injury occurred,

(3) a description of the injury and

(4) a demand for money damages. Under the Local Government Tort Claims Act, the most a single person can recover for an injury sustained as a result of the negligence of a state agency or employee is $400,000.

Once you have submitted the notice letter, the local government entity will investigate your claim and provide a response.

Assuming the local government agency or entity denies the claim or declines to make a reasonable settlement offer, you can then file a lawsuit as you would in any other situation. However, two things to bear in mind are:

(1) independent of the notice requirements under the statute, you still have three (3) years from the date of the incident to file the lawsuit and

(2) if you did not provide notice within one (1) year or your notice was deemed deficient under the statute, the local government entity can move to dismiss the lawsuit on that basis.

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Claims Against the Maryland Transit Administration

While similar to pursuing claims against governmental entities, claims against the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) are governed by a separate statutory provision otherwise known as the MTA Tort Claims Act, set forth in Section 7-702 of the Transportation Article of the Maryland Code.

Very similar to the above-referenced state and local government requirements, you have a one (1) year deadline to provide notice to MTA of your claim.

The MTA Tort Claims Act also mandates that you include certain information in your notice letter, including:

(1) the name and address of the individuals involved,

(2) a statement of how, where and when the injury occurred,

(3) a description of the injury and

(4) a demand for money damages. Unlike the State and Local Government Tort Claims Acts which caps the per person claim at $400,000, there is no similar monetary cap under the MTA Tort Claims Act. However, it should be noted that such claims would still be subject to the general statutory cap on non-economic damages.

Once you have submitted the notice letter, the MTA will investigate your claim and provide a response.

Assuming the MTA denies the claim or declines to make a reasonable settlement offer, you can then file a lawsuit as you would in any other situation. However, two things to consider are:

(1) independent of the notice requirements under the statute, you still have three (3) years from the date of the incident to file the lawsuit and

(2) if you did not provide notice within one (1) year or your notice was deemed deficient under the statute, the MTA can move to dismiss the lawsuit on that basis.

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Claims Against Government Employees Individually

You are permitted to sue a State or local government employee in their individual capacity, although such suits are unusual. Most frequently, such claims arise only when those individuals are being sued for actions outside of the scope of their employment with the government.

However, they can be sued individually for acting within the scope of their employment if it is determined that they engaged in “gross negligence” or acted with “malice.” These are both legal terms of art that have specific definitions and can also be very difficult to prove.

It is important to be aware though that if you pursue a claim against a government employee based on “gross negligence” or “malice” and you obtain a judgment, the State or local government is not obligated to satisfy that judgment. In practical terms, that means you will have to collect the money from the employee directly.

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Claims Against the Federal Government

Claims against the United States or any federal governmental agency operate a little differently from the State and Local Government provisions set forth above.

While there is also a notice provision, you have two years from the date of the incident to provide notice to the federal agency of your claim. And, with federal tort claims, notice is provided by using the Standard Form 95 which includes all the required information.

Under the Federal Tort Claims Act, the agency then has six months to accept or deny the claim. The claimant has 6 months from the date of a denial to file a personal injury lawsuit. However, if no response is received within the 6 month window, the claimant may elect to file his or her claim prior to waiting for a formal response.

While the Federal Tort Claims Act does not contain a specific limitation to how much money a plaintiff can claim, there are two important considerations that need to be taken into account:

(1) Absent special circumstances, a claimant will not be permitted to seek more in a lawsuit than he or she claimed in their initial claim form, and

(2) a plaintiff’s recovery will be governed by the laws of the state in which the case is being pursued. So, for example, a case pursued against the United States or a federal agency in Maryland will be governed by Maryland’s cap on non-economic damages.

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What Does This Mean For Me?

As you can see from all of the above, Maryland law in this area is very complicated. Without the benefit of excellent legal representation, you could find yourself without compensation for your injuries, including your medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering.

Failure to properly handle a tort claim against a governmental entity could result in that claim being denied and ultimately being dismissed by a Court.

To ensure this does not happen to you, call us today at 443-275-NEIL (6345). There is no fee unless we recover, so there is no risk. Let us fight for you, so you can focus on yourself, your family and your recovery.

So if you’ve been injured in a car accident, slip and fall or any other personal injury matter as a result of the negligence of a governmental entity or employee, contact Dubo Law TODAY!