Government Immunity in Virginia Personal Injury Lawsuits

Due to its proximity to the nation’s capital, Virginia sees a higher-than-average number of lawsuits with government entities, officials, or employees being named as defendants. That being the case, it is important for personal injury plaintiffs to understand the concept of governmental immunity and how the legal doctrine can come into play in a personal injury case.

School Buses

Governmental Immunity Acts to Protect Government Employees in Some Situations

Under the long-standing doctrine of governmental immunity, a state or local government cannot face legal liability for the acts of its agencies or employees unless it consents to the lawsuit. Statutory law outlines some situations in which governments automatically consent to lawsuits brought against them, such as in cases of willful or intentional misconduct. However, in cases involving acts of negligence, government agencies will generally not consent to be named as a defendant.

This is where the doctrine of government immunity becomes complicated. Immunity only attaches to acts that are considered discretionary in nature. For those other acts that are ministerial, meaning there is a certain way that the act is supposed to be carried out, government immunity will not attach. This is where much of the litigation takes place in many lawsuits brought against government defendants. A recent case illustrates this point.

Strycharz v. Cady:  Some School Administrators Are Insulated from Liability

Strycharz was injured on school grounds as he crossed the street to smoke a cigarette before class began. Since there was no attendant monitoring the busy parking lot and driveway into the school, Strycharz claimed that the school administrators were negligent and filed the appropriate lawsuit.

All of the school administrators claimed that they were entitled to governmental immunity and asked the court to dismiss the case. They claimed that they were all government employees, and the task of ensuring the safety of students on their way into school was one that was discretionary in nature. The trial court agreed, and Strycharz appealed.

On appeal, the appellate court agreed with the trial court that most of the school officials did have a discretionary duty, and it affirmed the dismissal of the case against those parties. However, the court held that the assistant principals had a ministerial duty to ensure the protection of students as they enter and exit the school. Since reasonable minds could differ as to whether the assistant principals met that duty, the question should be answered by a jury. As a result, Strycharz’ case was remanded back to the trial court so that it could proceed toward trial against the assistant principals.

Have You Been Injured in a Virginia Accident Involving a Government Entity or Employee?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Virginia car accident involving a government employee, do not get discouraged at the concept of government immunity. Each year in Virginia, many personal injury cases are successfully brought against government parties. To learn more about the rights you may have and the actions you need to take to protect them, call Charles B. Roberts & Associates today at 703-491-7070 to set up a free consultation to discuss your case. Calling will not result in any obligation on your part unless we can assist you in recovering the compensation you deserve.

See More Blog Posts:

Proving a Virginia Premises Liability Claim, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, November 16, 2016.

Plaintiff’s Personal Injury Lawsuit Permitted to Proceed Despite Signed Arbitration Agreement, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, November 3, 2016.