Articles Posted in Government Liability

When an individual suffers injuries because of poorly maintained property or land, they may be able to recover against the negligent land or property owner. However, Maine injury victims often face challenges when the incident occurs on public or government land or because of the negligence of a governmental entity or employee. The Maine Tort Claims Act (MTCA) provides municipalities and governmental entities with immunity for negligent acts. While the MTCA provides barriers to recovery, the government may still be liable for bodily injury and property damage in situations involving negligent ownership, maintenance or use of government vehicles, machinery, and equipment or roadways. Further, they may be responsible for injuries occurring at public buildings, such as public schools, parks, and courthouses.

While the MTCA provides broad immunity to governmental entities, the statute also includes exceptions to governmental immunity. Two critical road-related exceptions include:

  • Negligence during road construction, cleaning, and repair; and

Under state law, a negligent city, town, county, or state government official may be held liable for negligence through a Maine personal injury lawsuit. However, unlike typical personal injury claims, these cases impose significant burdens on injury victims. For over a century, the doctrine of sovereign immunity protected states and government agencies from civil lawsuits for their negligent conduct. However, to address the inherent unfairness in the doctrine, lawmakers have determined that these laws are not absolute.

Those who have suffered injuries because of a Maine government entity’s negligence may file a lawsuit under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) or the Maine Tort Claims Act (MTCA). The avenue of relief depends on the case’s circumstances, including the defendant, injury, and accident location. The FTCA provides Maine citizens a way to hold federal government employees liable for their tortious acts. On the other hand, the MTCA, is more restrictive, and allows these lawsuits in limited circumstances.

Under the MTCA, injury victims can pursue lawsuits against government employees under four circumstances. The first circumstance includes when the lawsuit stems from the government’s negligent ownership or maintenance of a vehicle or machinery. The following situation, is when the injury occurred at a public government building. This includes locations such as police stations, fire departments, public schools, and libraries. However, the government is not liable for accidents occurring because of the ownership or maintenance of areas such as historical sites or unimproved land. Lastly, the government may be liable for damages resulting from road construction or pollutant discharge.

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