Last Updated: December 9th, 2023

Can the Government Be Held Responsible for a Wrongful Death?

Can The Government Be Held Responsible For A Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death lawsuit and a personal injury lawsuit are similar in that there are a number of things that must be shown in order to make a claim.

In order to win or even file a wrongful death claim there must be a duty of care between the deceased and the defendant, the defendant has breached the duty, the breach of duty caused the deceased’s death, and the claimant has suffered damages.

Losing someone is never easy, but when a death is caused by the neglect, criminal actions or recklessness of another person, company, or agency, it may be even harder to deal with.

In most states, the next of kin can pursue a wrongful death claim if another party was responsible for their loved one’s death.

One of the most common questions pertaining to wrongful death is “what happens if the government was responsible for negligence”?

Whether you are considering suing the government for injuries that occurred as a result of hitting a pothole or you are considering suing the government for a wrongful death, there are low odds of winning, but there is a possibility.

So, the short answer is yes, the government can be held responsible for a wrongful death; however, there are several things to be aware of beforehand and there are complicated steps along the way.

Government Immunity

When it comes to parties that can be held liable in a wrongful death case against the government, it is important to understand government immunity.

Government immunity basically means that a local or a state government isn’t liable for damages of a personal injury or a wrongful death lawsuit.

For instance, in regard to the liability of local government agencies, some states the law consists of things such as a political subdivision isn’t liable for damages in civil action cases for injury or death that was caused by any omission or act of the political subdivision or by an employee of the political subdivision.

The immunity may have a variety of defenses that count as proprietary or governmental functions.

There are several agencies that are considered a government agency for primary purpose of this law, including public schools, the department of transportation, judicial and legislative branches of government, water departments and libraries.

It is important to note that immunity from a wrongful death lawsuit for individual persons and/or agencies varies from state to state.

Steps in Filing a Wrongful Death Claim Against the Government

When filing a suit against a government agency, it is critical that you obtain the proper government form for the claim.

You must file a special administrative claim with the agency or office that you are going sue before you can file the lawsuit.

This form must include the details regarding the amount of damages as well as the facts about the case and you must file the form within the specified timeframe that is specific to your claim.

Once the form has been filed, the government will have six months to respond to the claim and if the claim is denied, you will have six months to file the lawsuit.

It is critical that you not miss any deadlines, if you do, your case will typically be denied.

  • The government cannot be sued if the death was caused by a third party. For instance, if the death was caused by a third party that was hired by the government to do work for them; in this situation, the third party would have to be sued.
  • If you are planning to sue the government in a wrongful death lawsuit, you only have two years to file the claim. It is best to file the claim as early as possible to ensure you are registered within the allotted time frame. Make sure all of the facts related to your claim are documented and the appropriate amount of money that is expected for the damages (wrongful death). If you have a strong case, the government may admit claim and give you compensation for your loss.

Who Can Be Held Liable?

The list of some of the parties that can be held liable for a wrongful death claim against the government may include;

  • the builder or designer of a faulty roadway,
  • a government agent that failed to provide warnings about a hazardous roadway that cause the accident/death
  • persons that sold, served or delivered alcohol to an impaired person that was driving a vehicle that caused the accident, and
  • the manufacturer, and/or
  • the distributor or installer of a faulty vehicle.

For instance, if a government employee was intoxicated and driving a government issued vehicle at the time of the accident.

It is difficult to sue the government in a wrongful death claim, but there is a possibility of winning the case. The most important thing to keep in mind is that there are a number of critical steps that must be taken before you can file a claim.

There are critical timeframes, and the documents must be detailed, so if you think you have a wrongful death case against the government, it is important to contact an attorney that is experienced and knowledgeable in the representation of someone for a wrongful death case against the government.