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New Jersey Resident Dies in Military Training Accident – Can His Family Sue?

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A tragic accident recently befell a young New Jersey resident during his training at West Point.  We generally accept that military service comes with inherent risks, but what if an injury or death is caused by the negligence of a government official outside of an active military setting?  Can the government be held liable?  Should they be?  Read on for a discussion of this issue, and contact a seasoned personal injury lawyer if you’ve been injured by someone else’s negligence in New Jersey.

West Point cadet dies in training accident

A 22-year-old resident of Orange, New Jersey died from injuries sustained in a military vehicle accident at a training area, according to officials from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.  Nineteen other cadets and two soldiers were injured in the accident.  The West Point spokesperson stated that the cadets from the class of 2020 were on their way to a land navigation course to do a map-reading exercise when their transport vehicle suffered a rollover accident.  The crash occurred between West Point’s Camp Buckner and Camp Natural Bridge summer training site, around six miles southwest of the U.S. Military Academy.  Hundreds attended the funeral of the Orange resident, according to local news sources.  Officials have not yet said more about the cause of the accident. 

Can the cadet’s family sue the military for wrongful death?

The tragedy raises a complicated legal question:  Can the family of the deceased cadet sue the military if it is determined that the death was preventable and caused by the negligent or otherwise wrongful acts of military personnel? 

The federal government enjoys what is known as “sovereign immunity,” meaning immunity from liability for their actions unless they specifically allow a claim.  The military is a part of the federal government, as are any military officials acting in their official capacity.  Unlike claims against other individuals or entities, you can only sue the federal government if there is a specific federal law that grants you permission to sue under the given circumstances. 

If your family member is killed as a result of the actions of federal and, specifically, military officials, there are a few possible laws that might provide the basis for a lawsuit:  The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), the Military Personnel and Civilian Employees’ Claims Act (PCA), and the Military Claims Act (MCA). 

The FTCA waives federal sovereign immunity under specific circumstances, allowing people to collect damages from the federal government for injury, property damage, or death caused by the negligence of federal employees acting in the course of their job.  The PCA pays military and civilians up to $40,000 for any losses, including personal injury, death, and destruction of personal property that occur as a result of an individual’s service.  The MCA allows injured plaintiffs to recover damages resulting from personal injury, death, or property damage caused by military personnel or civilian employees acting within the scope of their employment.  Each of these laws has specific claim requirements and limitations on the type and scope of recovery.          

Help with Government Tort Claims in New Jersey

If you or someone you love has been hurt by the negligent or reckless behavior of another in New Jersey, find out whether you can file a claim for money damages by contacting the experienced New Jersey personal injury lawyer Andrew R. Jacobs for a free consultation at 973-532-9681.

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