Can I Sue a State for a Wrongful Death?

By Chris Dixon


If a state or federal business and its employees are responsible for someone’s sudden death, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are liable to compensate the victim’s surviving family members for damages. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the victim’s death, in most situations, government employees are immune to being sued, but in some cases, federal employees can be held liable for damages and the state can be sued for the wrongful death of an individual.

When Can I Sue a Government Employee for a Wrongful Death?

Government agencies and employees such as hospitals and employees of the U.S. Postal Office are required to follow federal and state laws while operating as an official government employee. If a government employee is negligent and someone is killed because of their carelessness, the victim’s immediate family can sue the employee and state agency for the victim’s wrongful death. Typically, if a state is sued for wrongful death, the victim’s family must file a compelling claim against the offending party under the state’s Statute of Limitations for the claim to be considered valid. It’s essential to know your state’s wrongful death laws because they can vary significantly. For example, in the State of California, the limitation for filing a claim against a state is within two years of the victim’s death, but in some states the limit for filing a wrongful death claim against a state can be as soon as a year after the victim’s death.

After a valid claim is filed against the state, the U.S. government conducts a six-month investigation and determines whether or not the business or employee is guilty, and if the victim’s family is entitled to compensation for the accident. Suing a state for wrongful death is a complex and lengthy process, so it’s best to hire a lawyer to represent your case before filing a claim against the negligent party. An experienced lawyer can make sure that you are eligible to sue the state for wrongful death, provide a realistic outcome for your case, protect you from the other party’s insurance agent, and ensure that the odds of recovering a satisfactory settlement are as high as possible.

Federal Torts Claim Act

The Federal Government has a law in place, called the Federal Torts Claim Act, that is designed to protect state agencies and employees from invalid personal injury claims. However, if a state agency or employee critically injures or kills someone, the Federal Torts Claim Act doesn’t apply to the situation, and the victim’s surviving family members are eligible to sue the state for wrongful death.

In order for a claim to be valid with the Federal U.S. Government it must be proved that: “(1) he was injured, or his property was damaged by a federal government employee; (2) the employee was acting within the scope of his official duties; (3) the employee was acting negligently or wrongfully; and (4) the negligent or wrongful act proximately caused the injury or damage of which he complains. The claimant must also provide documentation establishing that his claim satisfies all the elements of the FTCA.”

What Damages Can I Sue a Government Agency or State Employee For?

If a state facility or employee has directly contributed to someone’s wrongful death, the victim’s immediate family members are entitled to recover damages that the victim could have retrieved with a valid personal injury claim. Generally, the most common types of damages that can be recovered by suing a state for wrongful death include:

  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • Medical expenses that occurred before the victim’s death
  • Loss of income
  • Mental, physical, and emotional distress
  • Loss of the victim’s every day care (housework, child care, etc)
  • Loss of consortium

Talk to a Wrongful Death Lawyer About Suing a State Today

If your immediate family member has been injured by a state agency or employee, you need to consult a wrongful death lawyer immediately about the accident. The delay of bringing a suit against the negligent party can cause you to lose valuable time and potentially decrease the amount of compensation you are entitled to recover. If you are ready to sue a state for the wrongful death of a family member, contact the Dixon Injury Firm today to schedule a free consultation and explore the options available to your case for recovering full compensation.

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