Court Holds Department of Motor Vehicles Is Not Liable in Car Accident Case

Earlier this month, an appellate court in West Virginia issued a written opinion in a case brought by the surviving family members of a woman who was killed in a car accident. In the case, Department of Transportation v. King, the court held that the DMV was entitled to governmental immunity, reversing a lower court.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a man who lost his mother in a fatal car accident. The driver who struck and killed his mother had previously had her license suspended but had it reinstated two years later. The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) was responsible for reinstating the woman’s license.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against both the driver of the vehicle as well as the DMV. He claimed that the DMV violated a non-discretionary duty to refer the woman’s application to reinstate her license to a medical board to review if the woman was medically fit to have her license reinstated.

The trial court agreed with the plaintiff and denied the DMV’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit on immunity grounds. However, the DMV appealed the decision to a higher court.

On Appeal, the Case Is Reversed

The appellate court held that the DMV’s decision to refer the woman’s application to the medical board was a discretionary one. The court read the relevant statute in its entirety and determined that the referral process was one that was optional for the DMV. Since the referral to the medical board was optional, it was a discretionary decision, and the agency was entitled to immunity.

Government Entities Cannot Generally Be Held Liable for Discretionary Decisions

Under the longstanding doctrine of government immunity, government agencies, officials, and employees cannot be held liable for injuries caused by their discretionary actions related to carrying out government business. Of course, government immunity does not protect against non-discretionary duties, which are generally those that must be performed in a certain manner.

Similarly, government entities will not be entitled to immunity if the conduct causing the injury was intentional or not related to carrying out government business. To learn more about government immunity, and how it may affect a victim’s lawsuit, contact a dedicated Maryland personal injury attorney.

Have You Been Injured?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured on government land, or due to the conduct of a government employee or official, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. While government immunity applies in some circumstances, it is not appropriate in all cases. The skilled car accident lawyers at the Maryland law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have decades of collective experience helping injured parties seek the compensation they deserve from negligent government entities. Call 410-654-3600 to set up a free consultation to discuss your case today. Calling is free and will not result in any obligation on your part unless we can help you obtain the compensation you deserve.

More Blog Posts:

Establishing Liability after a Maryland or Washington, D.C. Car Accident, Maryland Accident Law Blog, November 14, 2016.

Case Arising out of Hospital Transportation Injury Required to Comply with Medical Malpractice Requirements, Maryland Accident Law Blog, November 1, 2016.

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