Why Are Street Sweepers Immune From Liability in Colorado?

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Street sweepers are one of Colorado’s many unsung heroes. These massive trucks vacuum away all the detritus of the city. They can be found cleaning away all the dirt, trash, and debris in many different municipalities. Although they are endlessly valuable, they may also sometimes prove to be a nuisance. Because of their immense size, it is not altogether uncommon to hear of street sweepers leaving injuries and property damage in their wake.

Moreover, as useful as they may be to the citizens involved, Colorado government-run street sweepers are generally immune from liability for any damages they cause. Although you may still be able to file a claim with the city in which your accident took place, you will probably not have the option of taking the case to litigation. Street sweeper accidents are not just ordinary car accidents.

Colorado’s Governmental Immunity Act

If a street sweeper is run by city, county, or state government offices, they are protected by something known as the Governmental Immunity Act. Furthermore, street sweepers are held to a different standard than snowplows, tow truck, or other equipment run by the city or county. This is because the Colorado Court of Appeals has ruled to classify street sweepers as machinery rather than as vehicles. This classification provides them with different sorts of protections.

The doctrine of sovereign immunity has been laid out in Colorado’s Governmental Immunity Act. It tells us that the state and all its political subdivisions are often immune from being sued for any injuries suffered by private individuals.

Why Are Street Sweepers Immune From Liability in Colorado?However, the law also tells us that the government provides “essential public services and functions and that unlimited liability could disrupt or make prohibitively expensive the provision of such essential public services and functions… The taxpayers would ultimately bear the fiscal burdens of unlimited liability and that limitations on the liability of public entities and public employees are necessary in order to protect the taxpayers against excessive fiscal burdens.”

Unfortunately, this means that innocent victims may find themselves with little to no recourse after an accident with a government vehicle. If you have been involved in an accident with a street sweeper, you may not know what to do or where to turn.

The first thing to do is to report the incident to your local authorities. Treat it as you would any other car accident. If you have incurred personal injury or property damage, it is likely that filing a claim with the Regional Transportation District (RTD) will be the only option. If the RTD is not the relevant government body for your case, you will want to file a claim with whichever agency is responsible for operating the machine.

If it is found that you were parked illegally, you probably do not have a viable case on your hands. However, if you can prove that the operator of the street sweeper was acting recklessly or negligently, you may be entitled to collect compensation from the city. These are exceptional circumstances, though, and it is more likely that you will need to rely on your own health or car insurance to cover your expenses.

Exceptions to the Governmental Immunity Act

Of course, there are still certain circumstances where sovereign immunity is not applicable and closing a successful claim is possible. These sorts of situations are known as waivers. There are eight different categories waivers may fall under:

  1. Operation of a motor vehicle owned or leased by a public entity, by a public employee while in the course of employment.
  2. Operation of a public hospital, correctional facility or jail.
  3. A dangerous condition of any public building.
  4. A dangerous condition of a public highway, road, or street.
  5. A dangerous condition of any public hospital, jail, public facility located in any park or recreational area maintained by a public entity, or public water, gas, sanitation, electrical, power, or swimming facility.
  6. The operation and maintenance of any public water facility, gas facility, sanitation facility, electrical faculty, power facility, or swimming facility by such public entity.
  7. The operation and maintenance of a qualified state capital asset that is the subject of a leveraged leasing agreement.
  8. Failure to perform an education employment-required background check as described in 13-80-103.9, C.R.S.

If you find that your case falls under any of the above waivers, it is likely in your best interest to procure an experienced street sweeper accident attorney as soon as possible. 

Privately Owned Street Sweepers

However, not all street sweepers are owned by the government. In fact, many are overseen by private companies. In Colorado Springs, for instance, there are sweeping companies that have been in service for over thirty years.

Privately operated street sweepers can generally be found on commercial properties. Such commercial properties include department stores, entertainment venues, grocery stores, malls, office buildings, pharmacy and drugstore chains, retail locations, shipping and distribution centers, and warehouses.

The private companies that serve these properties generally offer a wide variety of services. These services may include asphalt and striping cleanup, construction debris cleanup, property maintenance services, and more.

If you have been involved in an accident with a privately owned street sweeper, governmental immunity will obviously not apply to your case. You may be able to pursue legal action and collect compensation for your damages. If you are having trouble determining whether or not the street sweeper that hit you was owned by the government, you may be able to benefit from speaking with an attorney.

Seeking Legal Help

At Injury Victim Law, we can help with any and all of your street sweeper accident-related needs. Though we are a Colorado-based firm, our team of experts and investigators is ready and available to assist personal injury victims all across the country. Do not hesitate. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation with one of our experienced nationwide street sweeper accident attorneys. We are here to fight for you and your rights, and we are dedicated to resolving your case as expediently and as successfully as possible.

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