Man holding his shoulder in pain, suffering a personal injury

How Can Sovereign Immunity Impact a Personal Injury Claim?

The concept of sovereign immunity goes all the way back to old England, back to a time when the king, or sovereign, enjoyed immunity from lawsuits regardless of whether his or her actions resulted in harm to someone else. In modern American times, sovereign immunity lingers and is still fully applicable in some cases. In Pennsylvania, the Sovereign Immunity Act has waived the Commonwealth’s sovereign immunity protection from certain types of personal injury claims. There are, however, still lingering impacts of sovereign immunity in personal injury claims that should be considered should you seek to file a liability claim against a government employee or agency.

Sovereign immunity and Personal Injury Claims

In waiving its sovereign immunity in certain types of personal injury claims, Pennsylvania opens itself up to being sued for damages. All other states, like Pennsylvania, have chosen to conditionally waive sovereign immunity by passing laws that fall in line with Pennsylvania’s Sovereign Immunity Act. As previously stated, however, Pennsylvania has not fully waived sovereign immunity in injury claims, but only in certain types of cases such as:

  • Vehicle liability (including car accidents)
  • Medical malpractice (including toxoids and vaccines)
  • Care, custody, or control of personal property or animals (including police dogs and horses)
  • Premises liability (including commonwealth real estate, highways, and sidewalks)
  • Liquor liability (such as those that fall under the state’s Dram Shop laws)
  • National Guard
  • Negligent maintenance of roadways (including dangerous conditions caused by potholes and sinkholes)

In addition to the requirement that a claim fall under one of the above situations, the injured party must observe a strict set of deadlines and procedural rules in order to bring a personal injury claim against a government entity.

The injured party seeking to bring the claim must have sustained an injury that was caused by the negligence of a local government agency or an employee of a local government agency acting within the scope of his or her official government duties. Additionally, the damages sought by the injured party must be those ordinarily available to him or her had the injuries been caused by a non-governmental agency or employee.

The injured party must send written notice of their claim to the applicable government agency and, if the claim is against the state, the Attorney General. This notice must be given within a limited timeframe that is specific to the governmental agency involved. The notice must include the name and residence of the injured party making the claim. The notice must also include the date and time, along with the approximate location, of the accident. Additionally, the notice must include the name and office address of any attending physician. If the injured party fails to properly and timely send notice, then it is likely to result in dismissal of any lawsuit that is filed later on.

It should also be noted that the Sovereign Immunity Act places a limit on the amount of money recoverable by the injured party against the government. The government’s liability is capped at $250,000 per any one claimant per a single incident. Furthermore, there is a $1 million total cap over a single incident.

Pennsylvania Personal Injury Attorneys

While bringing an injury claim against the government is possible, it can be difficult and requires strict compliance with all filing requirements and deadlines. The dedicated attorneys at Cooper Schall & Levy are here to fight for your legal right to recover compensation from the government for any injuries their negligence may have caused you. Contact us today.