Sovereign Immunity May Bar Some Virginia Accident Victims’ Claims

Generally, when a tragic accident occurs and someone is at fault, Virginia state law allows people injured in the accident to bring a civil lawsuit against the at-fault party in court. These lawsuits, if successful, can result in the injured victims receiving monetary compensation for their injuries, including money for lost wages, pain and suffering, and past and future medical bills. However, there are exceptions to whom you can sue and who can be held liable for accidents. An important doctrine to understand is sovereign (or governmental) immunity, which protects the government from personal injury lawsuits for actions arising out of or related to official duties. As a result, there are some cases in which accident victims may be unable to recover legally for their injuries because the responsible party is governmental.

To understand this concept, take a recent Virginia appellate court case that arose when a fire hydrant had an insufficient water source to fight a fire. According to the court’s written opinion, the case, a wrongful death lawsuit, was brought against the city when the deceased person died in a tragic fire. The firefighters who responded to the burning building attempted to get water from the closest fire hydrant, but the water flow was insufficient. The firefighters had to go to another hydrant, 1,000 feet away, and by the time that they returned with the water needed to fight the fire, the victim had died.

The victim’s estate brought a wrongful death lawsuit against the city. The city responded with a request to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming sovereign immunity. Sovereign immunity in Virginia protects a city from being sued for actions that it takes to carry out governmental functions. Because of that doctrine, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case. The court reasoned that establishing and operating fire hydrants to help firefighters is a governmental function, and the victim’s estate could not bring suit against the city in this case.

The doctrine of sovereign immunity is complicated, and there are some exceptions that allow plaintiffs to sue a city in particular cases. A victim injured as a result of a governmental action, including an action by a state or city agency, may still be able to bring suit with the aid of an experienced attorney.

Contact a Virginia Personal Injury Attorney

If you or a loved one has recently been injured, and you believe that a governmental entity or agency is responsible, you may face additional barriers to your personal injury case. Contact Robinson Law, PLLC today to discuss your case, the potential barriers, and how we can help you get around them. Our dedicated attorneys are knowledgeable about Virginia personal injury law, including the doctrine of sovereign immunity and exceptions to that rule. We will handle your case from beginning to end, zealously asserting your rights at every step of the way. Contact us today to learn more and to schedule a free, no-risk consultation by calling 703-542-4008. We handle all types of personal injury claims, including Virginia premises liability cases, car accident claims, and incidents of wrongful death. Calling is risk-free, since we will not charge you for our services unless we can successfully earn you compensation.

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