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West Virginia car crash causes suit against highway department

Our West Virginia readers may not know that government entities can be sued for negligence that leads to an injury, provided specific procedures are followed. A public entity may also be held liable for negligent acts of their employees, again, so long as certain requirements are met.

A car accident involving a West Virginia resident and a West Virginia Department of Highways employee has resulted in such a civil claim. Both the department and the employee have been named as defendants in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit alleges that the Department of Highways employee was following too close in his vehicle and, as a result, failed to maintain control of it. He struck the plaintiff's vehicle and the plaintiff suffered a hip injury. According to the plaintiff, the permanent damage to his hip has resulted in a loss in range of motion, medical expenses, decreased quality of life, and lost wages, in addition to pain and suffering. He is seeking compensation for injuries.

In cases when the plaintiff is injured by a government entity, there are typically strict rules to follow in order to bring forth a lawsuit for the damages. These can include "notice of claim" requirements, which may need to be filed far in advance of the lawsuit. These rules are typically called "Tort Claims Acts." Typically, governments enjoy immunity from lawsuits, so permission is required to move forward. Government entities typically waive immunity in cases of accident or injury. However, a victim will waive the right to sue if the requirements for bringing a lawsuit are not met in a timely manner.

Once the notice is filed, the government entity will either accept or deny the claim. If they deny it, then the party is free to file a lawsuit against the government for the damages. In cases where the negligent party is employed by the government entity, as long as the employee was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident, the employer can be liable for the employee's negligence.

Source: West Virginia Record, "Man sues WV DOH for car accident," Kyla Asbury, Sept. 26, 2012

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