Historically, the doctrine of sovereign immunity barred private citizens from filing lawsuits against tortious government employees and entities. In response to the inherent unfairness of this broad prohibition, legislators enacted the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The FTCA (the “Act”) provides Maine citizens a mechanism to sue federal government employees for tortious acts in federal courts. However, the Maine Tort Claim Act (MTCA) is more restrictive and only allows private citizens to sue local and state government entities officials under very particular circumstances.
The MTCA allows injury victims to file lawsuits against Maine government employees and entities in four main situations. First, when the claim for bodily injury or property damage is based on the government’s negligent ownership or maintenance of vehicles, machinery, and equipment. This includes injuries that occur while the government employee is using a car, special mobile equipment, trailers, aircraft, watercraft, and other similar vehicles. Second, the government may face liability when the injury occurs at a public building. Public buildings typically include libraries, police stations, and public schools. However, there are exceptions, and the government is not liable for claims involving injuries from the construction, ownership, or maintenance of historical sites, land buildings, unimproved land, land used for recreation, and dams. Finally, the government may be liable for injuries resulting from the discharge of pollutants and road construction, cleaning, or repair.
Maine accident victims who sustain injuries on federal property may have other avenues for relief based on the FTCA. The FTCA permits injury victims to file a lawsuit in federal court based on injuries that occurred on federal property or by a federal government actor. For example, if an individual suffers injuries at one of the four national parks in Maine, they may be able to file a negligence lawsuit based on the FTCA. However, there are 13 exceptions to the waiver of immunity under the FTCA. The most frequent exception that the government will utilize is the discretionary function exception. This exception bars lawsuits against the government that are based on a government actor’s exercise or failure to perform a discretionary function or duty. Courts will examine two main factors when determining whether the government can employ this exception. First, they must decide if the government employee’s actions involved a judgment or choice. If they determine that an element of choice exists, they will then look to public policy considerations and whether the FTCA was designed to bar this type of lawsuit.
Lawsuits based on the FTCA or MTCA can be exceptionally challenging, however, government entities are routinely held liable for their negligent actions through diligent preparation and aggressive representation. Maine injury victims should consult with an attorney to determine their rights and potential remedies.
Have You Suffered Injuries Because of the Government’s Negligence?
If you or a loved one has been injured due to the negligence of a government entity or employee, contact the attorneys at Peter Thompson & Associates, P.C. The experienced Maine slip and fall attorneys at our law firm understand the unique barriers that these lawsuits pose, and can help you successfully recoup the damages you suffered. We have recovered substantial awards for our clients, including damages for pain and suffering, medical costs, property damage, and lost wages. The attorneys at our firm have been voted “Best Personal Injury Lawyer” for ten years in a row. Contact our law firm today at 800-804-2004 to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney on our team.