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The government and governmental agencies have protection from lawsuits under the theory of sovereign immunity, which precludes lawsuits against the government without its consent. Governments can waive sovereign immunity to allow for lawsuits.

In 1951, North Carolina adoped the State Tort Claims Act which allows injured persons and grieving families to file suit against state agencies and state employees for acts of negligence. Under the State Tort Claims Act, a state agency, state employees or agents of the state may be sued for injury to another for the negligence and carelessness caused of a state employee or agent acting within the course and scope of their employment.

An action under the State Tort Claims Act must be filed with the North Carolina Industrial Commission within three years of the date the cause of action accrued or within two years of the date of death in the case of a wrongful death. Under the State Tort Claims Act, the liability of the State is determined under the same principles applicable a private person under the laws of North Carolina. This simply means that the State has no greater protection or available defenses than would private citizen who was sued for negligence. As the injured party, although you have to bring your claim in a particular court of law, you have the same rights and claims against the State for the negligence causing the injury as you would if a private citizen would have been at fault.

Types of claims that may be brought under the State Tort Claims Act include:

* medical malpractice at a state hospital

* wrongful death in automobile accident caused by state employee driving a state vehicle

* gross negligence during a police chase

* premises liabilty at a state owned property or facility

Citizens need to be aware that they do have rights to bring lawsuits against the state for negligent acts of state employees or agents.

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