Norman Governmental Tort Claim Lawyers

How Governmental Torts Work

In 1946, the US Federal Government passed the Federal Tort Claims Act. The Act made it possible for citizens to file a tort claim against the government for damages administered by the federal government to their property or person. The Act removed the previous doctrine of Sovereign Immunity, which prevented citizens from filing claims against the federal government.

In recent decades, states have followed suit and passed their own tort claims acts. In 2009, the Oklahoma Government passed the Oklahoma Governmental Tort Claims act. If you live in Oklahoma and the Oklahoma Government or one of its subsidiaries (counties, cities, towns, schools, etc.) have caused damage to you or your property, you may be eligible to file a governmental tort claim.

At Nichols Dixon, our attorneys can help you pursue your governmental tort claim in court.

What Is a Tort?

If you hear the word "tort" and start thinking about pastries, you're not alone. "Tort" is a legal term for a civil or criminal wrongdoing that results in an individual (called "the victim") seeking some sort of remedy (such as financial compensation) from the person who committed the tort (called "the tortfeasor").

There are three types of torts:

  1. Intentional torts. Intentional torts involve a tortfeasor intentionally harming the victim. For example, battery, assault, and defamation are all intentional torts.
  2. Negligent torts. If a tortfeasor harms a victim through their negligence, a negligent tort is committed. For example, if someone is distracted while driving and runs a red light, resulting in a car accident, they're a negligent tortfeasor.
  3. Strict liability torts. Strict liability torts occur when someone's person or property is damaged despite using the proper precautions. Product liability, ultrahazardous activities, accidents involving wild and farm animals, and certain statutory offenses such as speeding violations all qualify as strict liability torts. There can be some overlap between strict liability torts and negligent or intentional torts, so working with an attorney to understand exactly what type of tort your case qualifies as is wise.

When someone files a tort claim, it typically initiates a court process where the victim attempts to get a remedy for the tort (such as financial compensation) and the tortfeasor attempts to absolve themself of responsibility for the tort.

Depending on whether or not your tort involves any criminal acts, the burden of proof on the victim changes. In civil torts where no criminal charges are leveled, the judge or jury will award a remedy to the victim if they believe a majority of the evidence weighs in the victim's favor. On the other hand, in criminal torts, the victim must prove the tortfeasor's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt to receive any sort of remedy from the court. An experienced attorney can help you present your case in court and gain a remedy for damages against you and your property.

How Do Governmental Tort Claims Work?

The Oklahoma Governmental Tort Claims Act defines a tort as "a legal wrong, independent of contract, involving violation of a duty imposed by general law, resulting in a loss to any person, association or corporation as the proximate result of an act or omission of a political subdivision or the state or an employee acting within the scope of your government."

In other words, if you or your property are damaged by Oklahoma state, one of its subdivisions, or an employee of the state or a subdivision, you can file a governmental tort claim.

Let's go over a few of the most common situations that can result in a governmental tort claim against Oklahoma state. You can file a governmental tort claim against the state, a subdivision, or an employee if:

  • Your sewer line gets clogged or backs up, resulting in damages to your property or health.
  • A Law Enforcement Professional (LEP) uses excessive force in an arrest or investigation, resulting in unnecessary harm or property damages to you.
  • An individual is killed in a police raid carried out by LEPs executing a search warrant.
  • You are neglected while in the care of a state hospital or receive new injuries during your hospital stay.
  • A LEP running a red light while in pursuit of a criminal hits your car or causes damage to you or your property.
  • A city or subdivision employee damages you or your property while carrying out their duties, such as a garbage truck hitting your car or running over your mailbox.

However, Oklahoma state, its subdivisions, and its employees aren't liable for any and all damage incurred by a person or property on their behalf. Certain restrictions apply to governmental torts. For example, Oklahoma state is not liable for:

  • Injuries that occur during dangerous weather, unless the state specifically neglected to protect citizens from that weather (if city officials neglect to salt roads after a snowstorm, for example).
  • Damages resulting from a law enforcement response where the responder intended to aid the victim. For example, if a paramedic performs CPR on you to save your life and accidentally cracks your rib, you can't file a tort against Oklahoma.
  • Damages resulting from a school employee who uses reasonable force to control or discipline a student.
  • An LEP response to a riot, insurrection, or other act of civil disobedience that results in damages.
  • Damages resulting from court-ordered community sentences. For example, if you get sentenced to jail, and your garden dies while you serve your sentence, you can't file a governmental tort for property damages.

There are also limitson what kind of remedy you can seek for a governmental tort claim. For example, Oklahoma state won't pay more than $25,000 to victims for property damage as the result of a single act, accident, or occurrence.

At Nichols Dixon, we know that understanding the ins and outs of governmental tort claims can be challenging. Our skilled attorneys can help you understand whether or not you're eligible for a governmental tort claim, and what kind of remedy you can expect from your claim. We'll also help you navigate the claims process in and out of court, so you receive the outcome you deserve.

To receive a legal consultation from our team, contact us online, or via phone at (405) 294-1511.


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