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Government Negligence

What happens when the government causes harm?

Over 22 million local, state, and federal government employees drive vehicles, fly planes, operate equipment, build and maintain roads, maintain properties, teach students, drive buses and spray chemicals in the course of their employment. The government is vicariously liable for both negligent and intentional acts of their employees.

What happens if a police officer causes a car accident that seriously injures or kills someone? When a county or city school bus is driven or maintained negligently causing harm to students? How about when a student at a public school is seriously injured or killed because of an improperly installed campus elevator? Can we do anything when the government ignores roadway maintenance that causes an accident, or when a public park is in such bad repair that a child gets knocked unconscious?

In Washington State, the government can be held accountable.

Under Washington State's laws, a person harmed as a result of the negligence of the government or its employees can sue for recovery of damages just “as if it were a private person or corporation.” RCW § 4.92.090.

In certain circumstances, there are additional rules and procedures specific to claims against the state government that present significant hurdles to those seeking reimbursement. Individuals must follow specific notice requirements. Sweetser Law Office is experienced and knowledgeable in handling these cases and will fight to protect our rights.

Common Examples of Government Neglect

  • Poor Maintenance of Public Parks or Buildings: A poorly maintained or unsafe area that is open to the general public can expose citizens to injury, including trips, slips, and falls.
  • Negligent Driving of Government Vehicles: Motor vehicle accidents involving state, city, or municipal vehicles can cause serious injury and death. Government vehicles include police vehicles, vehicles driven by government employees during the scope of their employment, buses, ambulances etc.
  • Negligent Construction or Maintenance of Roads: A defect in the roadway can be the result of government negligence, such as downed electric lines that are not removed quickly, poor roadway design, negligence during road construction or maintenance, or dangerous unfilled potholes. City or state construction sites can also present hazards, from ceiling collapses to dangerous walk routes or improper signage.
  • Unsafe Government Transportation: Public authorities providing mass transit, commonly bus and railway transportation, can be involved in accidents.
  • Negligent Medical Care at Government Hospitals or Care Facilities: A state-run hospital or a county-run skilled-care facility can commit negligence through medical malpractice, elder and vulnerable adult abuse, or birth injury.
  • Neglecting Supervision or Abuse in Public Schools: Public employees that act negligently when supervising, including teachers, administrators, and school districts, can be held liable for not properly protecting our children – including cases of sexual abuse, overlooked bullying, or lack of safety during sports activities.
  • Reckless Law Enforcement: Police officers acting under the color of law can employ excessive and unlawful use of force, violate civil rights, or fail to activate overhead lights and cause an accident.
  • Intentional Assault by Government Employees: On rare occasion, government employees abuse their authority and use physical force against citizens. The government is vicariously liable for both negligent and intentional actions of its employees.

In America, we have the right to sue our government when it causes harm. Victims can sue the government and win. Every level of government can be sued for wrongdoing or negligently causing harm. If you find that you or a loved one has suffered wrongdoing as the result of government conduct, contact Sweetser Law Office for a free consultation about the circumstances of the injury.

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