4 Injured After Crash With Philadelphia Fire Department Vehicle
On the morning of May 29, four people were injured when an SUV owned by the Philadelphia Fire Department (PFD) collided with another car, then seemed to lose control, driving up a sidewalk and into a building. Two people in the SUV, a female pedestrian and one passenger in the car were transported to nearby hospitals, though their injuries do not appear to be life-threatening as of this writing. While it is obviously good that no one was severely injured, it still raises the prospect of liability on the part of the PFD. If you are ever involved in an accident with a government vehicle, there are some extra steps you must take before determining whether or not you might be able to obtain compensation for your injuries.
Can They Be Sued?
It is easy to think that no one is immune from being sued in this country. However, governments and people are different entities, and in fact, most states have laws surrounding a concept called sovereign immunity, which deals with this issue. Sovereign immunity is a common-law idea that dates back to English law, and it meant at the time that the sovereign was entirely above the law – the rationale was that if the sovereign had to spend time responding to every citizen’s grievances, no governing would get done.
The state of U.S. law is a little more nuanced. While every state (and the federal government) has a sovereign immunity statute, every one of them has also passed laws allowing themselves to be sued in certain specific cases. Pennsylvania’s particular statute allows the government to be sued if two criteria are met: (1) if the person seeking to sue would have a valid cause of action against a private person for the same thing; and (2) if the case deals with one of nine particular areas of law, among which “vehicle liability” is included.
What Type Of Suit?
It is easy enough to look at the nine types of lawsuit allowed under Pennsylvania’s sovereign immunity statute, and determine if your injury resulted from one of them. However, it can be much more confusing to tell whether you would have a valid cause of action against a private person for the same act (or failure to act). The key is to eliminate the government factor entirely – for example, if a private individual lost control of their SUV and struck pedestrians before hitting a building, would the pedestrians be able to sue that person for their injuries? The answer is yes. Thus, they can sue the PFD for their injuries as well.
Be advised that if you determine to bring suit against a government entity in your case, you must send written notice of your intent to do so within six months of your accident. Failure to do this will essentially mean dismissal of your suit if you file it later. Also, Pennsylvania law limits the amount of damages available to plaintiffs who prevail in cases against the state or its agencies; as of this writing, the maximum that can be recovered is $250,000 per claimant, or $1 million per incident if more than one person was harmed.
Call A Scranton Auto Accident Lawyer
If you have been in an accident involving a state agency or employee, you still need an attorney experienced in accident recovery. The Scranton auto accident attorneys at the Needle Law Firm have been handling personal injury cases for years, and we are happy to put our experience to work for you. Contact our office today for a free consultation; we serve Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Stroudsburg, and most of northeastern Pennsylvania.