In Virginia, if a person is injured in a car accident caused by the negligent driving of a municipal employee, is the injured person’s claim barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity?

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The below information was written by our personal injury lawyers in Virginia Beach.

It depends. In Virginia, the doctrine of sovereign immunity insulates municipalities from liability for negligence in the performance of or failure to perform governmental functions. However, municipalities are not immune with respect to proprietary functions. The distinction between governmental functions and proprietary functions is very complex and fact specific, but the Virginia Supreme Court has addressed certain specific scenarios and made determinations that certain functions by a municipality are governmental and protected by sovereign immunity and certain other functions are proprietary and not protected by sovereign immunity. For example, the Virginia Supreme Court has written that the municipal collection of garbage is a governmental function, but the municipal maintenance of public streets and sidewalks is a proprietary function.

The question of sovereign immunity becomes even more complex when attempting to determine if an employee of a municipality is cloaked with the protection of sovereign immunity. Writing on the application of the doctrine of sovereign immunity to an employee of a municipality, the Virginia Supreme Court has said that the following four factors must be considered:

(1) the nature of the function the employee performs;

(2) the extent of the government’s interest and involvement in the function;

(3) the degree of control and direction exercised over the employee by the government; and

(4) whether the act in question involved the exercise of discretion and judgment.

Much of the case law on the application of the doctrine of sovereign immunity to employees of municipalities focuses on the fourth factor listed above regarding the exercise of discretion and judgment, and like most issues involving questions of sovereign immunity, the case law applying the standard of discretion and judgment is complex and very fact specific. For example, a fire truck driver racing to a fire with lights and sirens activated will probably be protected by the doctrine of sovereign immunity, but a fire truck driver responding to a non-emergency call without the lights and sirens activated probably will not be protected by sovereign immunity.

Questions regarding the application of the sovereign immunity doctrine are specific to the facts of the individual personal injury case, and we encourage you to contact one of our personal injury lawyers in Virginia Beach.  We can  assess whether a municipality and/or a municipal employee are protected by the doctrine of sovereign immunity and whether an exception to the doctrine of sovereign immunity, such as gross negligence, applies to the facts of the personal injury case. As in all personal injury cases, an experienced personal injury lawyer can also advise the injured person as to the value of the injury claim, can guide the injured person through the process of making a claim with the applicable insurance company or companies, and can represent the injured person in the litigation of the personal injury claim, if a personal injury lawsuit becomes necessary.

Waiting can hurt your case. To find out how our personal injury lawyers in Virginia Beach can help you, please contact us at (757) 486-2700.

Personal injury lawyers in Virginia Beach serving all of Hampton Roads.

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