If you are involved in an accident with a police or other law enforcement vehicle, it is critical that you act right away to protect your ability to seek compensation for your injury. In Georgia, you have as little as six months to make a claim for an injury caused by a law enforcement vehicle.
Notice to the Government (“Ante Litem Notice”)
Whether you are injured by a city, county, or state law enforcement vehicle, you must give notice of your claim to the proper government office to be allowed to file a lawsuit. This notice is often referred to as an ante litem notice.
- City Law Enforcement Vehicle: If the vehicle involved was a city police vehicle, written notice must be given to the city within six months of the injury. To meet the requirements of the municipal ante litem statute, the notice must be written and include information about the time and place of the injury, as well as information about the injury suffered and the negligent act (or failure to act) that caused the injury.
- County Law Enforcement Vehicle: If the vehicle involved was a county vehicle, notice of the claim must be given to the county within 12 months of the injury. (The notice required to the county is the least complicated notice with fewer requirements than the notice required for city and state claims.)
- State Law Enforcement Vehicle: If the vehicle involved in the accident was a state law enforcement vehicle, written notice of a claim must be given within 12 months of the injury. Like the municipal notice, the state notice must include specific information about the time and place of the injury, as well as information about the injury suffered and the negligent act (or failure to act) that caused the injury. The state notice must also include the name of the entity whose act or omission caused the injury and the amount of loss caused by the injury. Additionally, by law, the written notice must be delivered to a specific state office in a specific manner, or the notice is not valid.
Do not try to send an ante litem notice on your own. If you do not comply with the requirements, you may completely lose your ability to pursue your claim. Make sure you that you seek the assistance of an attorney who has experience pursuing claims against government entities.
(Or, You Can’t Sue the State, Unless the State Says So)
The greatest challenge to making an injury claim against the government is sovereign immunity, also known as government immunity. Basically, the government cannot be sued for its actions, unless a statute creates a specific exception to this rule. The reality is that the government could not function well without sovereign immunity. But, unfortunately, it also means that the government cannot always be held responsible for its actions.
There are statutes creating waivers of immunity for the state, counties, and cities. The scope of the waiver varies, but all can be used for claims arising out of the negligent operation of a motor vehicle. For claims involving a state vehicle, the most a person can get from the state for their personal injuries is $1,000,000. For counties and cities, Georgia law provides that there is an automatic waiver of immunity of $500,000 in damages per person, or $700,0000 per accident. However, a city or county may choose to purchase insurance in a higher amount. If they do, then the higher amount of insurance coverage is available to the injured person.
Police Chase Statute
If you are injured as a result of a police chase, Georgia law allows for a claim to be brought against the government under certain circumstances. If the officer involved in the chase recklessly disregarded proper procedure when he started or continued the chase, then you may be able to make a claim against the government for the injuries you suffered because of the officer’s actions.
Whether an officer followed proper procedure depends on the facts surrounding each chase. The fact that you were injured during a police chase is not enough by itself to hold the government accountable for your injury. You must be able to show that the officer recklessly disregarded procedure.
How Uninsured Motorist Insurance Can Help Protect You
If you are in an accident involving a law enforcement vehicle, just like any other motor vehicle accident, uninsured motorist coverage can help lessen your financial loss. Uninsured motorist coverage (commonly known as “UM” coverage) includes underinsured motorist coverage. If the liability limits of the government entity are less than the financial loss you have suffered because of your injury, uninsured motorist coverage can help make up the difference. (So, if you don’t already carry uninsured motorist coverage, it is a good idea to add it to your insurance policy to help protect you financially in any future motor vehicle accidents!)
Seeking compensation for an injury caused by a law enforcement vehicle can be a confusing process. Our experienced attorneys are here to help you navigate the process and protect your right to compensation for your injury. Please contact us today to see how we can help you.