If you’re injured by another person’s carelessness in Nebraska, you might decide to file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party. But what options do you have if the party who caused your harm was the state itself, or one of its employees? For example, if you’re in a car accident involving a government employee, or if you slip and fall in a government building, what can you do?
Injury claims against the government in Nebraska can be an uphill battle. These claims follow specific rules and can only be brought in circumstances allowed by the Nebraska State Tort Claims Act. In this article, we look at some key elements of Nebraska’s law surrounding injury claims against the government.
Nebraska’s State Tort Claims Act begins at Section 81-8,209 of the state statutes. This section specifies that "the State of Nebraska shall not be liable" for torts (injuries) caused by employees, officers, or agents, "and no suit shall be maintained against the state" unless it is permitted under the rules provided by the State Tort Claims Act.
Although it doesn’t use these words, Nebraska’s State Tort Claims Act is referring here to the rule of sovereign immunity. This rule, based on law inherited from England, bars private individuals from suing the state under the theory that "the king can do no wrong." While every U.S. state continues to acknowledge the rule of sovereign immunity, all have created specific exceptions that allow an injured person to seek compensation from the state government.
Under section 81-8,210 of the state statutes, a claim brought under the Nebraska State Tort Claims Act must:
What type of accident or incident could give rise to an injury or property damage claim under the State Tort Claims Act? Generally speaking, almost any kind of mishap, including vehicle accidents, injuries caused by dangerous property conditions, and any other incident where a state employee's negligence played a part in the claimant's losses.
Claims against the government in Nebraska are the responsibility of State Risk Management and the State Claims Board. A claim begins when the appropriate form is filed with the Risk Management. Necessary claim forms are available on the Risk Management website, along with instructions and a brief explanation of the claims process.
In Nebraska, claims with damages totaling $5,000 or less must be approved by the state Risk Manager. If the claim totals more than $5,000 but less than $50,001 it must be approved by the State Claims Board. Claims totaling more than $50,001 must be approved by the Nebraska State Legislature.
If the claim is not approved, the injured person may choose to file suit in court. Nebraska’s district courts have jurisdiction over state tort claims under Section 81-8,214 of the state statutes.
Claims against the state government are governed by the State Tort Claims Act. But what if your injury was caused by an employee of a local or municipal government? For instance, what if a county worker causes a car accident, or you slip and fall inside a city building?
Local and municipal governments in Nebraska have their own processes for handling claims. For instance, claims against the city of Lincoln are handled by the City Attorney’s Office, which provides information and records of past and pending claims on its website.