Most of us know that the State of California has a statute of limitations that sets a rigid time frame to file all personal injury claims. While most people recognize this statute, many fail to recognize that when the claim is made against a government agency, the time allowance and overall process is much different.
If you or someone you know was injured because of an auto accident that was caused by a government agency’s negligence, it is important to act quickly to begin the process. The information provided in this article will help to clarify important information you should know about filing a lawsuit against a government agency in the State of California.
Tort Claims Act
If you have been involved in an auto accident in the State of California and you have reason to believe that a government agency or employee was responsible for your injuries, you will need to file a distinct claim. Based on California’s Tort Claims Act, you will have up to six (6) months from the date of your injury to file a claim with the appropriate government agency.
The Tort Claims Act outlines certain exceptions, which allow the government to be held accountable under limited circumstances. Nonetheless, filing a successful claim can provide an injured person with compensatory damages that can include, but are not limited to the following:
- A loss of income,
- Medical bills,
- Therapeutic costs,
- Medication expenses,
- Property damage, and/or
- Pain and suffering
Tort Claims Act: Claim Exclusions
When filing a claim against a government agency, the Tort Claims Act will only allow an injured person to collect monetary compensation from a liable government agency. Injuries that will not be covered under the focus of the Tort Claims Act include:
- Those caused by the state’s national guard
- Those produced by the failing or passing of any regulation, law, or ordinance
- Those produced by issuing, or lack thereof, any license, certificate, order, permit, or comparable official authorization
- Those caused by the failure to inspect a property not owned by the government
- Those caused by the failure to enforce a law
- Those produced by misrepresentation
- Punitive damages
Additionally, claims that are not for financial compensation or damages will not be allowed. To illustrate, the California Supreme Court held that a claim for mandamus (requiring a public entity to perform an act) couldn’t be filed on the grounds that it is not a request for monetary compensation.
Government Claims Process
When you sue a government agency, you will first have to file an administrative claim with the agency you believe is responsible for your injury. This is a step that will need to be completed before you file a claim in court.
As previously mentioned, you will need to file a claim under a certain time frame. In the State of California, personal property damage and personal injury claims will need to be filed within six (6) months from the date of the injury. It is important to note, however, that there are a few exceptions to this, as stated under the California Government Code §905 and §911.2. More about these exceptions will be explained below.
Once the claim has been filed, the government agency will have 45 days to respond to your claim. If the agency has denied your claim during that time period, you have six (6) months to file a claim in court. The six months time frame begins from the date of the rejection letter, and if no such letter was received, you have two (2) years from the day the incident occurred to file a lawsuit.
Exceptions to Filing a Late Claim
Under very specific circumstances, a late claim may be accepted. In order to be considered, petitioners should attach an application for the late filing along with the claim. The following are the most commonly accepted reasons for filing a late claim:
- Making a mistake in the claim,
- Excusable neglect,
- The claimant was under the legal age during the six month period,
- Physical incapacity,
- Mental incapacity, or
- The death of the claimant
When it comes to filing a claim against a government agency, the statute of limitations can be very complex issue to understand. Furthermore, there are other factors that could affect the allowable time frame. Generally, if you are seeking to file a claim against an agency for personal injury, it is recommended that you act swiftly and begin the process as soon as possible.
What To Include In a Claim
When filing a claim, due diligence is highly recommended. By making sure that a claim is properly submitted, monetary compensation can be much faster to obtain.
Claims against government agencies can vary from agency to agency. In order to understand the full scope of what an application should include, the government agency responsible for the accident should be contacted.
For the most part, a claim that is filed against a government agency should include the following information:
- Name and address of the petitioner
- Address the claimant desires notices be sent to
- Date and place where the event took place
- Other circumstances surrounding the event
- A general description of the injury or damages incurred
- Name of the government employee who caused the damage, loss, and/or injury
- The total amount claimed, if the amount is less than $10,000
Consult With a Professional Attorney to File a Claim
If you were injured in an auto accident and have reason to believe your injury was caused by a government agency, consider seeking the legal advice of a professional attorney who can assist you. Filing a claim against a government agency is highly complex and the process can be very stressful. A specialized auto accident attorney can help to make sure your case is filed in a timely manner and that your claim includes supplementary elements that will fortify your case.
Attorney Justin H. King is specialized in the field of auto accident lawsuits in the State of California. He is dedicated to vigorously fighting for the rights of auto accidents who have been injured as a result of negligent government agencies.