What happens if you’re hurt in an accident caused by a city or county vehicle?
While cities and counties in Georgia are usually protected from personal injury claims and lawsuits by a legal doctrine called sovereign immunity that says the government is immune from lawsuits, Georgia law makes an exception for accidents caused by city or county vehicles. Under Georgia law O.C.G.A. 36-92-2, cities and counties waive their sovereign immunity up to a cap that is set by state law. The cap is:
- $500,000 for one person that is injured or killed in a wreck;
- A total of $700,000 if multiple people are injured or killed in a wreck;
Let’s use the City of Atlanta, where I live, as an example. If you’re injured in a wreck caused by a City of Atlanta police officer or maintenance employee, the most you can recover from the City is $500,000. If you have two friends in the car with you and all three of you are injured, the most any one of you could recover is $500,000, and the total recovery from the accident for all three people is capped at $700,000. For instance, one person could recover $300,000, a second person can recover $200,000 and a third person can recover $200,000 for a total of $700,000.
The city or county can choose to raise this cap by passing a resolution or ordinance that does so or can purchase insurance in a higher amount. A number of cities and counties in Georgia have done this and raised their cap to $1,000,000.
If you are injured in a wreck involving a city or county vehicle, you are required to send the city or county a legal notice called an “ante litem notice” before filing a lawsuit. If you do not send the notice you lose your right to file a claim or lawsuit against the county or city. We’ll discuss the requirements of an ante litem notice in detail in a future post, but generally you have six months to give notice to a city and 12 months to give notice to a county.
Note that this law does not apply to school boards. So if you’re injured in a wreck caused by a school bus, different laws and procedures apply.