In an unusual case, a man recently filed suit against the Montana Department of Transportation, alleging that the agency should be held partly responsible for the death of his son last year in a motorcycle accident. The father argues that the government agency was negligent in its design and maintenance of the intersection where the accident occurred and that this negligence contributed to the accident.

The son was riding his motorcycle east near Belgrade on June 4 of last year when a woman driving north pulled out in front of him at an intersection. The vehicles collided, and the motorcyclist had to be flown to a hospital in Billings, where he died several hours later.

In his lawsuit, the father argues that the Department of Transportation breached a duty to travelers on the road through not reasonably designing and maintaining the intersection. His wrongful death lawsuit seeks compensation for his son’s medical expenses, lost earnings and other damages.

Ordinarily, a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit involving a traffic accident involves two parties, the injured party and the other driver. If the other driver caused the injury through negligence, the negligent driver can be held liable for damages to the injured party. In some cases other parties may be held liable as well. For example, if the accident was partly caused by a design defect in one of the cars, the car manufacturer may be held partly liable for damages.

Similarly, it’s possible that a government agency could be partly liable for the damages if its negligence contributed to the injury. However, it must be noted that lawsuits against the government often require special procedures. In some circumstances, governments can successfully claim immunity from lawsuits.

There are many complicated issues that can come up when filing a claim related to a motorcycle accident. It’s important for the injured or their families to review the facts of their case with a qualified Montana attorney before pursuing legal action.

Source: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, “Father sues Mont. transportation department over son’s fatal motorcycle crash,” Whitney Bermes, Nov. 19, 2013