In Massachusetts, drivers can file insurance claims under their own auto policies regardless of who was at fault in a crash. If the at-fault driver caused significant losses, injury victims might then file a lawsuit to recover the total amount of damages from the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
However, the process is vastly different for accident claims against drivers employed by the federal government. Injury victims will be greatly challenged to win compensation from negligent state and federal employees, and it’s essential to speak with an experienced truck accident attorney before attempting to file a claim.
State and Federal Vehicle Crashes Differ From Other Truck Accidents
All government vehicles are self-insured, meaning they aren’t covered by private auto policies. Instead, the government pays for any injuries or negligence claims using taxpayer funds. After a collision with a mail delivery truck, school bus, or other vehicle owned by the state or federal government, you will file a claim under one of two statutes: The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) or the Massachusetts Tort Claims Act (MTCA).
The Federal Tort Claims Act
Claims against the U.S. government need to be pursued through the FTCA. Your truck accident case may fall under the FTCA if it involves:
- The United States Postal Service (USPS)
- The United States Armed Forces
- A federal law enforcement agent
- The Federal Bureau of Prisons
- The Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
- U.S. senators or representatives
- A government transport vehicle
To file an FTCA claim, all of the following must be true:
- The negligence of a federal employee caused your injuries.
- The federal employee’s negligent actions were committed within the scope of employment.
- Your claim must be in accordance with the law of the state where the negligence took place.
The Massachusetts Tort Claims Act
Claims against the state government are processed through the MTCA. You might have a claim under the MTCA if your injuries were caused by a state-level employee of:
- Cities and towns (buses, subway cars, trolleys)
- Municipal emergency responders (fire trucks, ambulances, police)
- School districts (school buses)
- Department of public works (utility vehicles, garbage or recycling trucks)
- Other boards, committees, or departments that employ public workers
How Do I Begin a Truck Accident Case Against the Government?
Each statute establishes the rules, procedures, and time limits for bringing a civil action against the government. The laws are complex, require injury victims to meet deadlines, and limit the total amount of compensation an injured party may recover.
Main Tort Requirements
- A notice of intent. In Massachusetts, you must formally notify the government entity of your intention to file an injury claim within 30 days of the accident. This notification must include the facts of your case, the financial losses you have suffered, and the amount of damages you seek in compensation. This is a severely restricted timeline to assess the full extent of your injuries. Still, an attorney can help calculate your medical costs, lost wages, lost earning capacity, and pain and suffering.
- A formal complaint. The executive officer of the government agency has six months to deny your claim in writing. If no denial is issued in that time, you can proceed with the claim. If the agency refuses to pay all of your damages or rejects the claim, you may need a lawyer’s help to compel the agency to comply.
- Federal court. Proceedings in these kinds of claims will take place in federal court. Few attorneys are familiar with federal court procedures, so you need someone with the knowledge and experience to prevail in the federal court system.
- Damage caps. The government places strict limits on the amount of recoverable damages for each injury victim. For example, Massachusetts law caps damages against public employers at $100,000 per person. Public employers are also immune from paying interest or punitive damages in negligence cases.
Can I File a Personal Injury Lawsuit Instead?
Public employees cannot be held personally liable for any personal injury or wrongful death they cause while acting in the course and scope of employment. However, there could be multiple parties at fault for the crash, and some of them may fall outside of the government’s jurisdiction. An in-depth investigation of your case can determine who should be held responsible for your compensation and identify all relevant insurance policies that could apply to your case.
- An off-duty employee. Both tort claims statutes require employees to be acting in the scope of their employment. If the employee caused a crash while driving their own vehicle, on a day off, or while on vacation, you might be able to file a traditional lawsuit.
- A contracted truck driver. Some government entities will use subcontractors to drive their vehicles. These drivers are independent contractors, not employees, and they can be held liable for their actions through a personal injury lawsuit.
- A third party. If the accident was caused by the negligence of someone other than the driver—such as the truck or parts manufacturer, the company that loaded the cargo, or the mechanic who serviced the vehicle—you could file an injury lawsuit against the responsible party.
Contact an Experienced Massachusetts Trucking Accident Lawyer
If you were hurt in a crash with a government vehicle, we could help you receive the full compensation you need and deserve. Please contact us online, or call 508-879-3500 to schedule a free case evaluation with the trusted injury attorneys at Mahaney & Pappas, LLP.