Governmental immunity stops people from suing the government and government employees and officials in many cases. This policy makes it easier for the government to make decisions because it protects the government from interference from lawsuits. For example, you may not sue the state legislature for money if they pass a law that happens to harm you. Government immunity will stop any lawsuit where a judgment in favor of the plaintiff could control the actions of the state or subject it to liability.
What Is Covered by Government Immunity?
Government immunity covers many government entities including:
State, cities, and counties
Agencies, Boards, Authorities, and Commissions
Schools, Police, and other local departments
How to Sue the Government
Government immunity does not prevent all lawsuits against the government. However, even if you can sue, the government may also be immune from types of remedies, such as punitive damages. There are many situations where suing the government is appropriate:
The immunity only applies to lawsuits that try to force the government to act or that demand money damages. You may sue the government for a declaratory judgment, to protest a wrongful injunction, and for equitable relief. Generally, you may sue to restrain the government in some way, but not force it to act.
You may sue if a government employee, official, or agency abuses its authority or acts beyond its authority. Employees are protected for acts and omissions in the scope of their employment, but not beyond it.
If there is a special relationship with the government, or a specific connection imposing a duty of care, the government may be liable if it fails to do its duty. However, some places restrict this if the relationship involves preventing crime, appointing competent officials, or making correct judicial decisions.
The legislature may make laws specifically granting immunity, or eliminating immunity in situations. It may also waive immunity in certain cases if it chooses to. For example, if the government purchases liability insurance to protect against a kind of tort liability, we assume the government waives its immunity, and it can liable up to the amount of the policy.
In some places, a court may decide to abolish governmental immunity in a certain case.
In some places, only acts of ordinary negligence receive immunity. If the government, or a government employee, does an act of gross negligence or recklessness there is no immunity.
In some places, the operational acts of government employees are not protected. For example, if a public transportation bus driver causes an accident, there can be liability.
Should I Contact a Lawyer About My Problem with the Government?
If you wish to sue the government, a lawyer can help evaluate whether governmental immunity is a bar and advise you of your rights.
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