If you have been seriously injured in an accident with a state or local government employee, your case is subject to a number of special rules and procedures. Below is an explanation of two of the special rules and a practical hurdle our office sees time and time again.
The first special rule is that a local government does not have any liability if the employee who injured you was performing a discretionary function. What is the discretionary function? The discretionary function exception to liability is meant to protect the government from tort liability in situations in which special social, scientific, economic, professional or political policy issues are involved. In short, policy and planning decisions are typically protected, but operational acts in which an employee is simply following a policy or regulation are not immune from liability. (The discretionary function rules are not applicable to claims against the State of Tennessee, only local governmental entities.)
The next special rule involves damage caps. The State of Tennessee’s damages have been capped by statute at $1,000,000 per accident and $300,000 per person. Local government liability is capped by statute at $300,000 per person and $700,000 per accident. These damage caps have been not increased in over a decade and are woefully short of compensating an injury victim with serious or catastrophic damages. (Note: there is no cap on damages in cases against the federal government. However, there are other special rules applicable to that type of case as well. Search this site for information about claims against the federal government.)
As if the two provisions above are not enough, one other hurdle in these cases is settlement negotiations. Because the governmental entity knows its damages are absolutely capped at $300,000 per person (interest and costs are included in the cap), the government almost always refuses to pay the full amount of the capped damages. Just in the past week, this has happened in one of our cases. The actual damages exceeded the amount of the allowable damages and the government tried to pay substantially less than the cap in the hopes that we would take less to avoid a trial. While we held firm and secured a very favorable settlement for our clients, governmental entities will use the leverage given it by capped damages to intimidate unrepresented people and inexperienced lawyers.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a government employee, we would be happy to explain your rights to you in a free, no-obligation consultation. Call us anytime at 615-742-4880 or toll-free at 866-812-8787 or simply fill out this form and we will call you.