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What to Do After an Accident Involving a Government Vehicle in Indiana

Updated February 23, 2023 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff

Car accidents can happen to anyone. But when those accidents involve a state or federal employee in a government-owned vehicle, it adds another layer of complexity to the situation.

It’s difficult to sue the government, but if you have been injured in an automobile accident involving a government-owned vehicle, it is possible for you to pursue a claim to seek compensation thanks to exceptions in government immunity laws.

Government-Owned Vehicles

You likely interact with vehicles owned by the local, state, or federal government every day. Government-owned vehicles can include the following:

  • Emergency response vehicles (police cars, fire engines, ambulances, etc.)
  • Mail trucks
  • City or school busses
  • Garbage trucks
  • Government semi-trucks and tractor-trailers
  • INDOT (Indiana Department of Transportation) vehicles
  • Municipal or city snowplows

An accident involving these or other vehicles owned by the government are litigated slightly differently from other automobile accidents.

The Indiana Tort Claims Act Protects the Government

The Indiana Tort Claims Act protects the local and state government from being sued by individuals in many situations. This act outlines when the government may and may not be liable for the actions of its employees. In many cases, the law does not allow you to file a claim against the government.

There are exceptions to the rule. When government employees—such as INDOT vehicle drivers, garbage truck operators, or police officers in a car chase—are involved in an automobile accident, victims can pursue a lawsuit.

What Claims Can Be Pursued in Indiana

In general, government employees acting within the scope of their duties cannot be held liable for their actions. Instead, injured victims file suit against the State of Indiana or a political subdivision where the government employee works.

The most common types of claims against the government that can be pursued in Indiana include the following:

  • Medical malpractice claims in government-owned facilities
  • Premises liability claims in government buildings
  • Automobile accident claims involving government-owned vehicles

No punitive damages can be sought, and strict damage caps apply.

In some instances, the Indiana government is immune from liability. Those instances are described in Indiana Code 34-13-3-3.

Comparative Fault vs. Contributory Negligence

When determining fault and liability in automobile accidents and other personal injury cases, Indiana operates under a principle called comparative fault. Under this doctrine, a victim can still recover damages even if they are partially at fault for their injuries. A jury will determine the percentage of fault for both parties.

However, comparative fault does not apply in cases against government entities. Instead, cases involving the Indiana government or political subdivisions are covered by contributory negligence. Under contributory negligence, if a victim is partially at fault—even 1%— they cannot recover damages.

How to File a Claim Against the Government

To file a claim against the Indiana government, you must file a notice of tort claim, wait 90 days or for the government to deny the claim, and then file a lawsuit.

You can get a better understanding of the Indiana Tort Claims Act and how it applies to your case by speaking with an experienced Indiana attorney.

Contact an Automobile Accident Attorney Today

If you or a loved one have been injured as a result of a car accident, you are urged to contact the attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. An Indianapolis car accident lawyer from WKW can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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