California Government Tort Claims Lawyer
If you suffer an injury on public property (a park, sidewalk, or a government building) and/or as a result of a governmental entity's negligence, you should contact an experienced attorney right away because it is necessary to follow a certain protocol when suing a public entity.
Trips and falls on city sidewalks, accidents involving a city bus, or injuries in parks and public school property are all examples of accidents involving government or municipal entities.
Government agencies enjoy broad protections, including shorter statutes of limitations, and certain procedural requirements put in place to ensure that most claims against the government get defeated on a technicality.
Sometimes, it may not be clear from the case whether a government entity is involved. If you have any doubt as to the identity of all parties responsible for your injuries, contact an attorney at Injury Justice Law Firm right away.
We will investigate which government agency may be responsible for your pain and suffering.
The skilled and experienced lawyers at Injury Justice Law Firm are highly knowledgeable in this area and will help you sail through this complex process with ease, so that you may concentrate on seeking proper medical treatment and getting better rather than fighting the system.
What is a California Tort Claims Act?
In California, before you may sue a public entity (a state, county, or local governmental entity) or a government employee for money damages, you must first file a claim meeting the requirements of the California Tort Claims Act. California Government Code, Sections 810-996.6. With very limited exceptions, no lawsuit for money damages may be brought against a governmental entity unless a written claim has been properly filed within the six-month time limit.
So, even if you are injured by the government and do not currently intend to sue, you should still consider filing a claim to protect your rights and to keep your options open.
When Is it Necessary to File a Claim?
You might choose to sue the government for a variety of reasons. However, in a personal injury context, a government entity may be responsible for the death, physical injury, or property damage, if you or your loved one are injured on a property maintained by a public entity and/or if the public entity is somehow negligent for your or your loved one's injury or even death.
The injury suffered is called a “tort.” The person filing a “tort claim,” is called the “claimant.” In most cases, you, as the claimant, must file a tort claim, if you are trying to get money or “damages” from the governmental entity. California Government Code, Sections 905, 905.2
Where to File a Claim?
A claim against a county or local governmental entity or employee directly with the entity's governing board or clerk. You may deliver the claim in person or by mail. California Government Code, Section 915(a).
You can file a claim against the state or a state agency or employee with the State Board of Control, by delivering it to any local State Board of Control office or by mailing it to the main office in Sacramento. California Government Code, Section 915(b).
Delivering in Person v. Mailing the Claim
If you deliver the claim in person, the filing date is the delivery date. On the other hand, if you mail the claim, the filing date is the mailing date and NOT the date when the entity receives the claim. This is why if mailing the claim, it is best to mail the claim via certified mail, to have proof that you have mailed the claim on a certain date.
Contents of the Claim
Government entities frequently have the claim forms that they require to receive to fulfill the claim submission requirements. Therefore, it is always best to use a government form when filing a claim. However, generally, the government claim must contain the following information under California Government Code, Section 910:
- The claimant's name and post office address;
- The post office address where you want to receive notices;
- The date, place, and facts surrounding your injury, damage, or loss;
- A general description of the injury, damage, or loss;
- The name(s) of the government employee(s) causing the injury, if known;
- If the amount is less than $10,000, the dollar amount claimed; and
- If the amount is greater than $10,000, nevertheless, you do not have to set out a specific amount on the claim form. You must, however, indicate whether the case would be a “limited civil case,” which depends on the amount of damages claimed. California Government Code, Section 910(f) and California Civil Code of Procedure, Sections 85, 86.
Generally, a case is a limited civil case if the amount of money you are seeking is less than $25,000.
Timeliness of the Claim
When filing a claim against a governmental entity, timeliness is very important. You must file a claim for personal injury (i.e., physical injury, and/or death, and/or damage to personal property) within six (6) months of the date of the injury. California Government Code, Section 911.2.
The six (6) months period to file the claim begins to toll when you suffered the injury or if you did not find about the injury until later than the date when you became aware or should have become aware of the injury. Whitfield v. Roth (1974) 10 C.3d 874.
What Happens if Your Claim is Filed Late?
Sometimes a claimant may wait longer than six months to file a personal injury claim. In this case, your claim must be accompanied by an “application for late filing.” This is why even if your claim is late, an experienced attorney might help you avoid having your claim rejected.
In your application for late filing, you must state the reason why you did not file the claim within six months from the date of injury. California Government Code, Section 911.4(b). There are four valid reasons for a late claim:
- Mistake, inadvertence, surprise or excusable neglect;
- The claimant was a minor during the entire six month period;
- Physical or mental incapacity; and
- Death of the claimant. California Government Code, Section 911.6(b))
A late claim must be filed within a reasonable time, still not to exceed one year from the date of the injury. California Government Code, Section 911.4(b).) The “reasonableness” of the delay is determined on a case-by-case basis; this is why if your claim is late or you think it might be late, you should contact an experienced attorney immediately and apply for leave to file a late claim as soon as possible.
After you file a claim, the board must respond (allow or reject the claim in whole or in part) within 45 days. If the board does not respond, the claim is treated as rejected on the 45th day. California Government Code, Sections 912.6(a), 912.4(c).
What to Do if Claim is Rejected by Government?
If your claim is rejected by the government, you have the option of suing the government in Court. If the government rejects your claim in whole or in part, you have six (6) months from the date that the notification is mailed to file a lawsuit against the governmental entity. California Government Code, Sections 913, 945.6(a)(1).
However, if the government has failed to notify you regarding their rejection of your claim, then you may have two years from the date of the injury to file a lawsuit against the government. California Government Code, Section 945.6(a)(2).
Before you file a claim, or even if you have already filed a claim and your claim is rejected, or even if your claim has been already accepted by the government and there has been an offer of settlement, you should consult with an experienced attorney to maximize your chances of a fair recovery.
Consulting With An Injury Attorney
We can help you investigate the facts of your case and identify all potential defendants to maximize your chances of successful recovery.
Do not be re-victimized by the government's aggressive stonewalling. If you have previously submitted a government tort claim and it was denied, it may still be possible to obtain recovery by filing a lawsuit in court.
We are ready to answer any questions you may have about your case and help you navigate the complex landscape of litigation against a government entity.
Call us today for a free consultation at (818) 642-5229. With offices in Van Nuys and Century City, we are available to meet with you immediately and get the process started to ensure that you do not miss any deadlines and your rights are fully preserved.