Deadly Accident on Fort Leonard Wood Raises the Question--Can You File a Wrongful Death Suit Against the Federal Government?

A recent two-vehicle accident left one person dead and a second in critical condition after a collision on Missouri's Fort Leonard Wood Military Base. Although government vehicles share the roads with ordinary civilian and commercial vehicles every day, accidents such as this one are uncommon. In this article, Columbia MO car accident lawyers will discuss car accidents involving government and civilian vehicles.

794006_truck_1.jpgA spokesperson for the Army Base said a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck (HEMTT) collided with a 2005 Dodge Neon on Oct. 11th. The driver of the Neon, 49 year-old Christine Boone, was pronounced dead at the scene by emergency responders from General Leonard Wood Army Community Hospital. A passenger in the Neon was transported to Columbia's University hospital and listed in critical condition.

The driver and passenger inside the HEMTT are both reported to be soldiers. Neither of them were injured. The results of this accident are similar to what can happen if a passenger vehicle is in an accident with a commercial truck. Because the truck is so much bigger and heavier than a car, the damage is much worse to the car and its occupants. An HEMTT is a 10-ton, eight-wheel-drive vehicle used by the Army for the re-supply of combat vehicles and weapons systems. In other words, this tank-like vehicle weighs 10,000 pounds versus the Dodge's 4,000 or so pounds.

Both the Fort Leonard Wood Military Police as well as the Army's Criminal Investigation Command are conducting a joint investigation of this tragic accident.

Can you sue the Federal Government for a wrongful death accident or injury caused by one of its vehicles?

The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) allows victims of accidents with government vehicles to sue the U.S. government, if personal injury or death is caused by the government driver's negligence. Of course, we don't know if that is the case in this particular accident, so we are simply discussing accidents with government vehicles in general.

Although it is doable, it is not easy to sue the government. An accident involving a government or military vehicle is very different than one involving two civilian vehicles. The burden of proof is much higher for the civilian pressing the lawsuit. Gross negligence must be proven--either against the government or driver of the government vehicle.

If you have been injured in an accident with a government vehicle, such as a mail truck or military vehicle, the first step would be to file an administrative claim. The federal government only provides a very short window of opportunity to take this step. If you miss the deadline, you will most likely lose any chance of recovering damages. You may have to indicate the settlement amount you are asking for on this claim form. If you don't know what your claim is worth, you may seriously underestimate this amount and never be able to receive fair compensation for your injuries, as you will be restricted to this amount in any future lawsuit.

If Your Administrative Claim is Denied, What Happens Next?

You will receive a letter by U.S. mail telling you if your claim has been denied. At this point you can still opt to sue the government, if you have a solid case. There will also be a time limit for filing the lawsuit, which should be in the letter.

How do you know whether or not you have a solid case?

As you can see, lawsuits against the government are complicated. They involve many regulations and procedures that must be followed to the letter. The Columbia car accident lawyers at Aaron Sachs and Associates advise you to refrain from filing any paperwork or taking any steps until you consult a lawyer. Please call us today to discuss your car accident or wrongful death case.


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Categories: Wrongful Death, MISC