Last year, one man and his passenger were injured in a car accident involving U.S. Representative Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) chief of staff on Interstate 395. Ryan’s chief of staff was driving Ryan’s car at the time. Earlier this month, the two injured in the accident filed suit against both Ryan and his chief of staff claiming that driver at the time was following too closely, resulting in the accident. Paul Ryan was not in the car at the time of the accident.
According to a recent news report by 4 NBC Washington, the accident occurred on I-395 when Ryan’s vehicle crashed into the back of the accident victim’s vehicle. No one suffered serious or life-threatening injuries. However, the driver and his passenger both sustained a “closed head injury” and reported nausea and a concussion.
Recently, the two filed suit in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. against both Ryan and his chief of staff. According to the news article, the U.S. Department of Justice is defending the suit against Ryan because he is a federal government employee. The Department has filed an answer to the complaint, claiming that the government is immune from suit and that it should be dismissed.
The Doctrine of Sovereign Immunity
State and federal governments enjoy what is called sovereign immunity against most lawsuits that are brought against them. Essentially, this means that the government cannot be held liable for an accident that occurs while a government employee is acting within the scope of his employment.
However, if an accident victim can show that the government employee was not acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident, sovereign immunity may no longer apply. In some cases, an employee who is grossly negligent or reckless may be found to be acting outside the scope of their employment.
The U.S. Justice Department claims that the chief of staff “is an employee of Representative Ryan and was acting within the scope of his employment when the motor vehicle accident occurred.” The response continued that, “absent a waiver of sovereign immunity, the federal government is immune from suit.” It remains to be seen how the judge overseeing the case will rule on the issue.
Have You Been Injured in an Accident Involving a Government Employee?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in an accident that involved the negligence of a state or federal government employee, don’t assume that you can’t bring a lawsuit for damages. In some cases, the state or federal government waives its sovereign immunity. In other cases, the doctrine doesn’t apply because the government employee wasn’t acting within the scope of his or her employment. To learn more about personal injury claims against government officials, call 410-654-3600 to set up a free consultation with a dedicated Washington D.C. personal injury attorney.
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