Garbage trucks present serious hazards on roads and highways in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, etc. The dangers associated with these vehicles are especially prevalent in narrow city streets since the trucks may suddenly come to a stop, block the road, create congestion, and so forth. If you or a loved one is hit by a garbage truck and suffered serious injuries, you probably have questions about your legal rights and whether you can take legal action against the driver who hit you. This article addresses the very important issue of liability in garbage truck accidents.
Establishing Ownership of the Garbage Truck is Key
Not all garbage trucks are owned by the city. Some garbage trucks are owned by private companies under a contract to collect for the neighborhood, town or city, while other garbage companies may be fully public.
If the garbage truck that hit you is owed by a private company, you can take legal action against the company. If the driver they company employed operated the garbage truck unreasonably, violated a traffic law, or was negligent in some other way that caused an accident, the drivers, workers, and company itself may be liable for your injuries.
When the garbage truck is owned by a local government entity, the situation becomes more complicated. This is because you may need to take legal action against the government in order to pursue compensation for your garbage truck accident injuries. In these cases, garbage collectors and garbage truck drivers may be local, town, city, or municipal government employees. When the government garbage truck is responsible for an accident, it may be difficult to file a claim against the government directly. If the garbage collection company is a private company, there may not be any limits on your ability to sue them for your injuries. However, if they are a government contractor or employee, your ability to file a personal injury claim could be limited.
The Virginia Tort Claims Act
The Virginia Tort Claims Act is a state law providing immunity to state government employees who commit "ordinary negligence" in the course of their employment. This means if there is evidence that the garbage truck driver caused an accident by ordinary negligence (e.g., failing to yield while making a turn) then you probably will not able to file a claim against the employee or the government.
However, if the accident was caused by gross negligence, you are allowed to file a personal injury claim against the driver and the government. Gross negligence is characterized by a complete lack of care on the defendant's part and has been defined as the absence of slight diligence or the want of even scant care.
Nevertheless, even if you are able to file a suit against the government, the Virginia Tort Claims Act limits your ability to recover damages to one hundred thousand dollars ($100,000) for claims arising out of "damage to or loss of property or personal injury or death caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any [Commonwealth] employee while acting within the scope of his employment." See Va. Code § 8.01-195.3.
Contact a Virginia Garbage Truck Accident Attorney Today
If you or a loved one was injured in an accident with a garbage truck, contact our Virginia Beach personal injury attorneys today. Since 1985, our law firm has represented victims in lawsuits to recover medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering damages. Whether you’re suing a private individual, a large company, or the government, we will fight for maximum compensation.