In a car accident, the negligent driver may be liable for damages. In a slip and fall accident, the property owner may be liable for damages. However, when the negligent party is part of the Colorado state, county, or city government, the injury victim may be limited in getting compensation for their injuries.
The government generally has sovereign immunity for claims from others for damages. The Colorado Governmental Immunity Act (CGIA) provides governmental immunity for agencies and employees in personal injury claims. This may not seem fair but there are exceptions that allow injury victims to claim damages for accidents caused by a state agency or government worker.
If you are involved in an accident with a government driver or injured on government property, the attorneys at accidentdenver.com will investigate your case, identify the parties responsible, and file a claim to get you the maximum compensation after an injury accident in Colorado. Contact us today for a free consultation.
What is the Colorado Governmental Immunity Act?
Under Colorado Revised Statutes §§ 24-10-101, the CGIA provides governmental immunity for state and local government agencies and employees for certain personal injury claims. The CGIA also provides partial waivers of immunities for some claims and limits damages available for those limited exceptions.
The law recognizes that sovereign immunity, where the government is generally immune from personal injury claims suffered by private persons, can be, “an inequitable doctrine.” However, the government justifies the doctrine because unlimited claims would be a fiscal burden to taxpayers.
Waivers of Colorado Immunity for Negligence
The State of Colorado has partially waived immunity for certain claims against government agencies and employees. Under Colorado Revised Statutes § 24-10-109, “sovereign immunity is waived by a public entity in an action for injuries resulting from:”
- Operation of a motor vehicle owned or leased by a public entity, by a public employee while in the course of employment;
- Operation of a public hospital, correctional facility or jail;
- A dangerous condition of any public building;
- A dangerous condition of a public highway, road or street;
- A dangerous condition of any public hospital, jail, public facility located in any park or recreational area maintained by a public entity, or public water, gas, sanitation, electrical, power, or swimming facility and;
- The operation and maintenance of any public water facility, gas facility, sanitation facility, electrical faculty, power facility, or swimming facility by such public entity.
- The operation and maintenance of a qualified state capital asset that is the subject of a leveraged leasing agreement.
- Failure to perform an education employment required background check under Colorado Revised Statutes § 13-80-103.9.
- Destruction or unlawful seizure of recordings by a law enforcement officer under Colorado Revised Statutes § 13-21-128.
This appears to be a broad waiver of sovereign immunity but each of these waivers may be subject to a number of exceptions and limitations. Talk to your Denver accident lawyer about your rights and how you can claim damages after an accident involving a state, county, or city agency or employee.
Filing a Negligence Claim Against Colorado Government
If your injury or accident falls within the waivers under the CGIA, you may be able to seek compensation for your injuries against the Colorado state agency or employee responsible for the accident. Under most personal injury claims, the injury victim has two years from the date of injury to file a claim. However, if you are filing a claim against the State of Colorado, there is an additional notice requirement with a much shorter time limit of 182 days.
Notice Requirement for Claims Against Government Agencies or Employees
Under Colorado Revised Statutes § 24-10-109, any person claiming to have suffered an injury by a public entity or employee shall file a written notice within 182 days after the date of the discovery of the injury. The notice shall contain the following:
- The name and address of the claimant and the name and address of his attorney, if any;
- A concise statement of the factual basis of the claim, including the date, time, place, and circumstances of the act, omission, or event complained of;
- The name and address of any public employee involved, if known;
- A concise statement of the nature and the extent of the injury claimed to have been suffered; and
- A statement of the amount of monetary damages that is being requested.
This notice requirement is necessary before an individual can file a lawsuit against a Colorado state agency or employee. After submitting notice, the state has 90 days to provide a response. If the state does not respond or denies the claim, the individual may then file a lawsuit against the state agency or employee.
Talk to your Denver accident lawyers as soon as possible after an accident to make sure your claim is filed in time. If your claim is filed too late or notice is not given in time, you may lose out on your chance to recover damages.
Limits on Governmental Liability
Under Colorado Revised Statutes § 24-10-114, the amount of damages recoverable for negligence by the state or state employee may be limited. Depending on the type of claim, the maximum amount that can be recovered for a single occurrence from one or more public entities or employees may be limited to $350,000, as of 2018. The cap is subject to adjustment for inflation by the Colorado Secretary of State.
There may be additional damages available for loss of consortium claim, which is generally filed by a spouse of the injury victim. Talk to your Colorado accident lawyer about your case and how you may be able to recover the maximum damages for your accident.
Car Accidents with Government Workers
Some of the most common accidents that fall under the CGIA involve car accidents with government employees or workers. There are a number of government employees who may be driving around Denver or Colorado in a government vehicle or their private vehicle while working. If the employee negligently caused a car accident, then the government agency may be liable.
Under vicarious liability, an employer may be liable for the negligence of an employee when the employee was acting in the course and scope of employment. For example, an employee with the Colorado Department of Human Services (DHS) is driving to Aurora to conduct a child welfare check. While driving down E. 11th Avenue, the employee looks down at the phone to check the map and gets into an accident with another driver. The other driver may be able to file a claim against the employee and DHS for any injuries.
However, if the employee was done with work and headed home and got into an accident, the employer may not be liable because the employee was no longer driving within the scope of employment. In that case, the employee may be personally liable for negligently causing an accident but the employer would generally not be liable.
Slip and Fall Accidents on Government Property
Another common example of accidents that may fall under the immunity waiver is slip, trip, and fall accidents in government buildings. Sovereign immunity is waived in an action for injuries resulting from “a dangerous condition of any public building.”
For example, a resident needs a special events permit from the Colorado Springs Department of Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services. The resident walks into the building and trips over some torn carpeting, falling and suffering a broken nose. If the torn carpet is considered a dangerous condition that the department knew about or should have known about, then the injury victim may be able to file a claim against the city for damages.
Additionally, there is generally a waiver of immunity for accidents caused by a dangerous accumulation of snow and ice that interferes with access to public buildings. For example, after a sunny day and freezing night, a layer of ice buildup on the steps outside the state capital. A visitor slips and falls on the ice, suffering a broken leg. The state may be liable for the injury because it was caused by a dangerous condition that interfered with access to the government building.
School Violence Waiver for Liability
There is a limited waiver of sovereign immunity for public schools and charter schools related to school violence. Under Colorado Revised Statutes § 24-10-106.3, Colorado waives sovereign immunity for failure to exercise reasonable care for foreseeable incidents of school violence committed by another person, including:
- First-degree assault,
- Felony sexual assault, or
- A crime of violence causing serious bodily injury or death.
There are limits to a school's waiver of immunity for school violence, including for willful and wanton actions by a school employee.
Colorado Lawyers for Filing Claims Against State and City Agencies and Employees
The attorneys at accidentdenver.com have successfully represented their clients and families in Denver who were involved in accidents on state property or caused by city or state employees. Our attorneys understand how the government tries to restrict claims against the state, city, and county for negligence and will fight to get the maximum compensation available for your injuries. Contact us today for a free consultation.