San Diego is proud of its military identity, from the Marines Corps Base in Camp Pendleton, to Naval Base San Diego that is home the United States’ Pacific Fleet. It’s nearly impossible to spend any amount of time in our beautiful city and not feel the history, awe, and presence of these fine institutions. Alongside them are other government organizations that protect and serve the citizens of San Diego, such as the Police Department, Fire Department, the United States Postal Service, even public librarians and school bus drivers. There’s a strong civic pride that is cherished in our city.
So it’s easy to see that having many government organizations in San Diego means there’s more public employees driving on our roads and freeways than most other cities in the U.S.
A simple look at the odds would suggest that your likelihood of having an accident with a government vehicle on San Diego streets is higher than what you might expect. And if you have the misfortune of having an accident with a government vehicle, what should you do? Is it different than having an accident with a civilian vehicle? The short answer is yes, very different.
Here are a few car accident scenarios that might help shed some light on what to expect in an accident with a government vehicle.
- You’re driving home late one night. You’re a little tired, but not so much that you can’t make it home safely. You’re at a stoplight, tempted to look at that text message, but you don’t because you’re a responsible driver. Then BAM! You’re thrown forward and quickly you surmise that you’ve been rear-ended. It wasn’t too bad, but bad enough to cause a little neck pain. You turn on the hazard lights then get out of the car to speak with the driver who rear-ended you. As you approach the vehicle, you see that it’s a large, camouflaged, intimidating truck with the familiar Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton insignia on the driver’s door. The words “uh-oh” come to your mind. The driver, a young Marine, hops out of the truck. “Sir, I am so sorry, sir,” he says. You can tell he’s sincere and maybe a little scared of what he’s done. “I thought I had plenty of room to stop, but my brakes just seemed to give out on me.” You don’t say a word, because, of course, what’s running through your mind is “Do I have to file a claim against the U.S. Marine Corps now? How does that work?”
- It’s a lovely Saturday afternoon and you’re on your way to meet a friend. You’re casually sitting at the front position of an intersection waiting to turn left. You’re enjoying a favorite podcast as you wait. You notice a kid on a skateboard on the corner of the street opposite you, waiting to cross where you’re going to turn. The light turns green. You wait for the kid to cross, but he doesn’t. You wave for him to go first, but he hesitates. “Well, okay,” you think, “I guess the kid isn’t sure what to do so I’ll go first.” You begin your left turn only to come to the frightening realization that there’s a fire truck barreling down at you. The truck blares its horn, which frightens you even more. You react. You have to get out of the way, so you speedily continue your turn. As you do, your car is clipped by the fire truck. You’re spun to the curb and the truck, unfazed, continues on to its destination. Once you catch your breath, you realize why the kid hesitated, and you wonder why you never heard the fire truck before your turn. Perhaps the truck operator didn’t signal in advance properly? It wasn’t like you were blasting music or talking on the phone. You should’ve heard it. Now your car is wrecked. What do you do?
- After a long day, you’re finally driving home from work and you’re almost there. You’re winding your way up a hill and around a corner on the last stretch of your street. As you come over the hill, you see a mail truck merging ahead of you. He seemed to have popped up out of nowhere, and normally you’re a bit more cautious when coming over that winding hill, but today, you were just ready to get home. You slam the brakes, and had he kept going, you would’ve missed him, but instead he instinctively slams his brakes as well. You catch the back end of the mail truck with the front of your sedan. It’s a light tap, but it’s enough for the mail truck to stop and pull over. The mailman is fine and says he understands how dangerous that hill is and each day when he makes that particular stop, he wonders if he’s going to get hit. You’re careful not to admit fault, and agree that, yes, that is a dangerous hill. And then there’s a long pause. What happens now? Do you exchange insurance information? Probably not, since this a mail truck. So do you have to wrestle with the massive U.S. Postal Service now? Probably so.
In each of these scenarios, what you’ll find as you proceed is that it’s very difficult to sue the government, even if it’s their fault, or if it’s unclear who’s at fault. You’ll also quickly become acquainted with the term “government immunity,” which is exactly what it sounds like. Yes, it’s difficult to sue, but it’s not impossible. Many government vehicles have insurance coverage, and it’s meant for situations like this. Of course, these insurance companies are backed by the power of the United States, so getting them to cooperate can be difficult.
We strongly recommend talking to a lawyer. Not just any lawyer. An aggressive one, who knows all the tricks insurance companies get up to. That’s us. Jurewitz Law Group has extensive experience in all sorts of difficult claims, even ones against government vehicles. Call us for a free consultation today at (888) 233-5020.
Ross Jurewitz is the founder and managing lawyer of the Jurewitz Law Group, a San Diego personal injury attorney law firm. These San Diego injury accident lawyers specialize in helping people seriously injured in a variety of accidents throughout San Diego County and California.
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