When someone is injured in an accident caused by a business or person, those individuals or entities are usually considered responsible. When that entity is a state government, then the state is responsible. Most states retain liability limitations to protect them from large settlements to claimants injured by the actions of a state agency or its employees.In the State of Washington, this sovereign immunity has relaxed since the 1970’s, putting greater responsibility on the state to disprove negligence in cases presented by personal injury lawyers.
Although there are conflicting opinions on the level of responsibility put on the state regarding tort liability, personal injury law attorneys and their clients in Washington are entitled to a fair settlement when the state is proven to be negligent.
What is Considered A State Agency?
For the purpose of determining government liability involving a personal injury case in the State of Washington, a government agency is considered as a state employee, officer or volunteer, or an agency of the state that is responsible for making certain decisions that affect the public. Examples of these are construction crews employed by the state, police officers, and other civil employees, as well as those employed by state departments such as child protective services.
Washington State - Government Liability Law
In most states, government employees and agencies are protected from many types of negligence claims that leave injured individuals without recourse if injured by a state employee or agency. Although these laws did not involve obvious cases of negligence and had relaxed somewhat over the years, less obvious cases such as “failure to protect” claims were very difficult to pursue in court.
The State of Washington changed those rules, making personal injury claims much more transparent for those claiming injury as a result of the actions of a state employee or agency. Washington is the only state in the nation to do so. This is especially significant in cases where certain state agencies have not adequately protected the public; there are cases that in most other states are inadmissible.
Washington State - Filing An Injury Claim
In order for any type of personal injury tort claim to be accepted against a Washington state employee or agency, injured individuals and their personal injury lawyers must follow specific procedures outlined by the state. This begins with filing paperwork at the Office of Risk Management (ORM), where claims are reviewed and it is determined if the state is actually liable. Filing claims requires having all relevant and valid evidence available, which is best done with the assistance of personal injury law attorneys.
There is significant controversy over how Washington State assumes liability in comparison to other states. Many believe it puts the state at greater financial risk, considering the amount that could be awarded in some settlements. Other individuals, including personal injury law attorneys, applaud Washington for its willingness to take responsibility in cases of negligence and feel this should be used as a model for other states to consider.
The most important thing all states should accept is the need to prevent injuries caused by acts of negligence of state employees and agencies, rather than rely on the protection of sovereign immunity. Thankfully, for both residents and personal injury lawyers in the State of Washington, protection of government agencies based on the concept of sovereign immunity is less prevalent than before!
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