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Articles Posted in Cases Against the Government

Suing the State of Tennessee in a personal injury or wrongful death case is different than suing a person or business in a personal injury case.  Here are some of the major differences:

1. Formal notice must be given before a lawsuit is filed with the Division of Claims Administration.  Failure to give written notice in the correct way will result in the loss of the right to bring a claim.  Notice typically must be given within one year of the date of the incident causing injury or death, although this area of the law is very complicated.  The actual deadline that applies in your case should be determined by an experienced Tennessee personal injury and wrongful death lawyer who has been made aware of all of the facts.

2. After notice is filed, the injured person must wait 90 days before taking other legal action.  The State may settle or deny the claim during this 90-day period.  (I have filed claims against the State of Tennessee many times over my 30+ years as a lawyer and they have never settled a claim in this 89 day period.)  If the claim is not settled or denied, proper papers must be filed with the Tennessee Claims Commission.

I was in a car accident caused a guy driving a dump truck for Springfield (Robertson County), Tennessee public works department.  Can I sue the city and recover damages for the injuries I received?

Yes.  In Tennessee, local governments cannot be sued under many circumstances but they can be sued if an employee driving a vehicle on the business of the city (or county) causes an accident and there is property damage or personal injury as a result.

However, the damages in such a lawsuit are limited to no more than $300,000 for any one person injured or killed in the accident and no more than $700,000 total if multiple people are injured or killed.  Property damage claims are limited to $100,000.

I was hit by a Post Office truck.  How do I get my medical bills, lost wages, and other compensation paid to me?

If the truck was in fact owned and operated by the U.S. Post Office, you must file a formal notice of claim with the Post Office.  You must do this within two years of the date of your accident.  The Post Office then has at least six months to deny, approve, review or negotiate the claim.  If the claim is not resolved in six months, you have the right to file suit in federal court to protect your rights.

The claims and lawsuit process can be very complicated.  You would be wish to consult with a lawyer before taking legal action.  Our firm, the Law Offices of John Day, P.C., has handled claims against the federal government on many occasions, most recently resolving a medical negligence claim against a Veteran’s Administration Hospital.

I was hurt in a car wreck.  The wreck was caused by a state employee driving at a very high rate of speed during work hours.  The employee was working at the time of the wreck. The officer told me that the state employee’s conduct was reckless.  Can I recover punitive damages in a claim against the State of Tennessee? 

No.  Tennessee law permits you to sue the State of Tennessee when one of its employees negligently causes a car wreck and resulting property damage and injuries, but claims for punitive damages are not permitted under any circumstances.  This is true even if the conduct is reckless and you would have been able to collect punitive damages if the wreck  had been asserted against a private individual.

Compensatory damages may be sought, but they are limited to $300,000 per person and no more than $1,000,000 per incident.

 I was in an automobile wreck with a truck driven by a mail truck.  The wreck happened on the interstate in Robertson County, Tennessee.   Can I sue the driver and the Post Office for my injuries?

You can sue the Post Office, but there is a special process that must be followed.  The Post Office can only be sued in federal court after the failure of a special claims process.  

The law that gives you the right to sue the Post Office is the Federal Tort Claims Act.  The claim must be filed within two years of the date of the accident.  A special claim form must be used to file the case with Post Office.  If Post Office rejects the claim or does not act on it within six months you will have to file suit in federal court.

My car got rear-ended by a careless police officer driving his patrol car.  He was flying – the impact drove the bumper of my car into what used to be the back seat.  I was badly hurt.  I have heard that I can’t sue the officer but I can sue the city he works for.  I have also heard that my right to sue the city is limited.  Are those things true?

Yes.  In Tennessee you cannot sue the officer but you can sue his employer.  However, the total amount of damages you can recover is $300,000.  This is true even if your medical bills and lost wages exceed this amount – the most you can recover under any circumstances is only $300,000.

Our firm represents people in claims against state and local governments.   We accept many cases on a contingent fee basis, which means that we charge no attorneys’ fee unless we are successful in our case.  Please feel free to call for a free consultation.

I was involved in a wreck caused by the negligence of park ranger employed by the State of Tennessee.  The park ranger was driving a state vehicle during business hours.  I spent three days in the hospital and will have lots of physical therapy.  What are my rights?

You have legal rights, but they are limited as compared with those you would have against a private citizen or company.

You cannot sue the park ranger, but you can file a claim against the State.  You must first give notice to the State through the Attorney General’s office and, when the claim is denied (it almost certainly will be) you will need to file the claim with the Board of Claims.  The Board of Claims follows many of the same rules as the court system, but damages for personal injury are limited to no more than $300,000, regardless of the amount of your lost wages, medical bills, or long-term disability.

I was a victim of medical malpractice in an Army hospital in Tennessee.  What are my rights?

There is a process established in the law that permits victims of medical malpractice caused by employees of the Army, Air Force, Navy or Veteran’s Administration to take legal action.  First, appropriate notice must be given and then, when the claim is denied, suit must be filed in federal court.

Tennessee medical malpractice and damages law will control your case, even though it must be filed under a special federal law.  Here is a summary of Tennessee medical malpractice law.  Please note that federal law generally gives more time to file suit than state law – you need to talk with an experienced medical malpractice lawyer to assist you in determining how much time you have to file suit under the federal statute.  Failure to file suit on time will result in a loss of whatever rights you have, so be sure to contact a lawyer quickly.

 I live in a small town in East Tennessee.  I just had an addition put on my house.  The building inspector from my town came and approved the work done on the house, including the electrical work.  Two days later the entire house burned.  The cause of the fire was improper wiring work on the new addition.  Can I sue the building inspector for failing to discover the bad wiring job?

No.  Under Tennessee law a local government cannot be sued for negligent inspection.  Thus, even if you could show that the building inspector did a bad job, neither the inspector nor his employer can be sued.

You may have a claim against the electrical contractor and perhaps even the general contractor.  An experienced trial lawyer can help you investigate this claim and determine what rights, if any, you have.

I was badly hurt in a car wreck.  The wreck was caused by a State of Tennessee employee driving a state vehicle.  The State employee was working at the time.  I have heard that the State’s liability is limited to $300,000.  Is that true?

Yes, in Tennessee the State is responsible for the negligence of its employees who cause car wrecks but the State’s responsibility is limited to $300,000.  If the negligent state employee hurts a whole carload of people the recovery is up to $1,000,000 but no one person may recover more than $300,000.  

This is true regardless of the size of the medical bills, the lost wages, or the nature of the injury.   The restriction on recoverable damages is based on a law passed by the Legislature.

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