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How Does Sovereign Immunity Affect a Lawsuit Against the Government?

Suing a government entity is complex. There are several extra steps you must take. The government is the authority that allows lawsuits to exist, so it protects itself against them. Sovereign immunity is one of the government’s most effective tools of self-protection. Sovereign immunity limits who you can sue and under what conditions.

What Is Sovereign Immunity?

Sovereign immunity controls lawsuits against the government. Essentially, it is designed to protect certain institutions or individuals. Individuals can be sued for their private actions, but sovereign immunity protects them when their actions were a part of their job. This has become a controversial law, as many police accused of misconduct are shielded from lawsuits.

There are two kinds of sovereign immunity: absolute immunity and qualified immunity.

Absolute Immunity

This immunity shields a person or institution from all incoming lawsuits, no matter what. The philosophy behind this immunity is that if you were able to sue for certain actions, the government could not function. Take, for example, a judge. If they could be sued for their rulings, they would likely spend all their time battling lawsuits. They would never be able to get on with their jobs, and they would be disincentivized to continue their work. When a judge is unlawful or abuses their power, the matter is handled by criminal court.

Qualified Immunity

Qualified immunity allows you to bring a suit against the government, provided that you meet certain conditions. These qualifications change with each government job or responsibility, so bringing forth a suit requires clear knowledge of justifiable conditions. For example, if a police officer is negligent or outright malicious in the performance of their duties, they can still be shielded from lawsuit. To file a lawsuit, you will likely need to sue the department or another branch of the organization.

Sovereign Immunity Impedes Lawsuits

By its very nature, sovereign immunity hampers your ability to sue at all. There are many ways it can slow down the judicial process, so let’s focus on two major impediments.

Time Limits

The statute of limitations on most civil lawsuits can be years. In a suit against the government, the time frame is significantly shorter. At the low end, sovereign immunity gives just 60 days to file a lawsuit. At the higher end, you can have up to 180 days.

Imagine the work it takes for a legal team to do investigations, compile evidence, interview witnesses, as so on. Now give that lawyer two to five months to do that. Clearly, these deadlines are designed to make suing the government an incredibly difficult endeavor.

Going Against an Organization

In most circumstances, winning a lawsuit against an organization is more difficult than winning against an individual. Organizations can afford a bigger legal team, and they already have strategies in place to handle lawsuits. They are simply more well-funded and prepared to take on a lawsuit. Contrast this with an individual government employee who caused you harm. They will likely be blindsided and unprepared for a lawsuit, and they may not be able to afford a crack legal team to defend them.

Only a Skilled Attorney Can Help

To successfully sue the government, you need a lawyer with experience and knowledge. They must be aware of legal loopholes, prepared to handle them quickly and efficiently. They must have experience with difficult lawsuits, handling them appropriately. If you’ve tried every other avenue to receive compensation for your damages, make sure you vet the law firm you choose. Verify that they have the experience and ability to file your suit successfully.

If you need help with a lawsuit against the government, trust our firm to help. You can reach us by phone at (602) 483-6114 or fill out a contact form here.

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