Being injured in a car accident is never a pleasant experience. Aside from the physical pain, you may experience emotional distress and financial problems. Not to mention the anger and frustration you may feel toward the person responsible. But what if the person is a government official? Can you sue a city or county agency?
Generally speaking, Ohio provides governmental organizations and agencies with broad immunity against civil lawsuits. Neither the entities, nor their employees, can be held liable for injuries, death or property damage caused by them. As a threshold matter, this immunity can make it much more difficult to hold a government agency accountable for negligent acts than it is for a private business or person.
Immunity exception for vehicles
However, Ohio law provides an exception for governmental immunity when vehicles are involved. Civil employees have the same responsibility to drive with reasonable care as anyone else. This is a duty imposed by law. When they fail to exercise reasonable care, even when driving on behalf of their employer, they are negligent and can be held liable for injuries they cause.
Ohio Revised Code Section 2744.02, which both grants governmental immunity and excepts vehicles from that immunity, does not limit liability only to government-owned vehicles. Privately owned vehicles, so long as they are being driven by the employee in the course of their employment, are also subject to civil liability.
One important area that remains immunized from vehicle liability is that of emergency response. Police officers, firefighters and medical personnel cannot be held liable for simple negligence if they cause an automobile accident while responding to an emergency.