Prevailing in car accident lawsuits against the State of Maryland and other government entities can be difficult. This is largely due to the fact that such entites enjoy the protection of special rules and exceptions known as "sovereign immunity," or governmental immunity. These laws originate prior to pre-revolutionary English laws and are derived from the concept that the monarch could not commit misdeeds and was immune from civil lawsuits. Over the time, the laws have been modified to permit suits against the government where the government has waived its immunity, however the liability is often substantially limited in such cases and very strict procedural requirements are often employed. Consequently, even if a police officer, fireman, or government official is responsible for your injuries, you may be without a legal recourse.
The Doctrine of Governmental Immunity and Sovereign Immunity
The doctrine of sovereign immunity protects the State and governments. In general, it means that State and government entities cannot be sued or held responsible for civil claims by its citizens if the government and its agents acted within their discretionary authority. Government immunity is deeply ingrained in Maryland Law. However, over time several exceptions to the rule have been created.
Exceptions to Governmental Immunity and Sovereign Immunity
The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) provides a limited waiver when government employees are negligent within the scope of their employment. The government can only be sued “under circumstances where the United States, if a private person, would be liable to the claimant in accordance with the law of the place where the act or omission occurred.”
In Maryland all claims against the State must be brought pursuant to the Maryland Tort Claims Act. (MTCA) This statute resembles the FTCA and is modeled after it. The MTCA provides for a limited waiver of sovereign immunity under certain circumstances. It also provides for strict notice requirements that must be complied with. These notice requirments are more stringent and lapse more quickly than the standard Maryland Statute of Limitations. Therefore, failure to comply with these requirements will usually operate as a total bar to making a claim against the Maryland goverment.
Most experts agree that limited government immunity is a necessary and valuable legal principal. However, police officers, ambulance drivers and fire truck operators should be accountable for reckless driving. Therefore, vehicle liability is one of the most common exceptions to government immunity. These typically include emergency vehicles, such as fire trucks en route to a fire, police car chases, and ambulances headed to hospitals. As a rule, a Maryland car accident claim can only proceed against the state if the alleged act occurred outside the scope of public duties. Furthermore, depending on the manner and method of operation of the government vehicle, (i.e. the vehicle is engaged on an emergency run), the level and amount of immunity may also be effected.
Due to the heightened difficulty in cases involving sovereign immunity cases in the State of Maryland, you should be represented by counsel. If you or a loved one have been injured, and you think you may have a claim against a state employee or a negligent party, do not hesitate. Schedule a no-cost evaluation of your case with our office and let one of our attorneys examine your claim.