Pennsylvania Rules for Suing the Government
Here are the only circumstances under which injured victims can file a suit against the government in Pennsylvania. Learn the strict rules and limitations that apply to lawsuits against the government, and what you must do to preserve your claim before you take any legal action.
Can you sue a Pennsylvania government agency for personal injuries?Pennsylvania has adopted two pieces of legislation that shield government agencies from liability when people suffer injury on government property or by government workers: the Sovereign Immunity Act and the Political Subdivision Tort Claims Act.
The former provides that the state of Pennsylvania is immune from lawsuits; the latter provides essentially the same rules and protections, but for municipalities, e.g., local government agencies. Fortunately for injured parties, both of these acts provide exceptions to the rules. There are certain circumstances in which people can sue the government for damages.
Under what conditions can you sue the government?There are very specific exceptions to government immunity, detailed in Pennsylvania Codes § 8522 and § 8542. You can pursue an injury claim against a state or local government agency if any of the following apply to your case:
- Your injuries were sustained in vehicle accident, such as in a public transit accident or an accident with a government vehicle
- Your injuries were caused by a commonwealth medical facility's errors
- Your accident involved the care, custody, or control of personal property or animals, such as getting hurt by a police horse
- You sustained your injuries on state property, highways, or sidewalks
- Your injuries were caused by dangerous road hazards on Commonwealth highways
- Your injuries resulted from a sale at Pennsylvania liquor store by an employee of the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board
- You were hurt by the National Guard
- Your injuries resulted from a defective vaccine manufactured outside of Pennsylvania
What special rules apply for government injury claims?Not only are there strict stipulations about when you are permitted to file a claim against the government, but there are also other limitations you will be subject to.
Firstly, you have a much shorter time limit for when you must bring your claim. While in non-government personal injury cases, you have two years to file a claim, you have only 30 to 180 days to preserve your claim against the government in Pennsylvania, depending on the rules of the specific division involved.
Secondly, the law limits the amount of damages you can receive. The aforementioned laws cap the government's liability at $250,000 per plaintiff and $1,000,000 as a whole. Furthermore, only special and general damages are compensable; you cannot recover punitive damages in a case against the government in Pennsylvania.
And perhaps most importantly, there are extra steps in the claims process you need to follow when filing a claim against the government. For instance, before you may officially file a lawsuit, you must first notify the agency in writing of your intention to take legal action. Failure to file this "Notice of Claim" within the allotted time limit nullifies your rights to compensation entirely.