Bringing a personal injury claim against a government entity is not the same as bringing a claim against a private citizen or business. One key difference is the deadline that applies to filing the lawsuit. This deadline is often referred to as the “statute of limitations.”
The typical statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits is two years from the date of injury or one year from the date when the injury was discovered, or should have reasonably been discovered. But if you want to pursue damages from a government entity, you will first have to file an administrative claim within six months of the injury, or one year under some circumstances. The government will then have 45 days to respond.
If the claim is denied, you should receive a rejection letter. The lawsuit must then be filed within six months of the date when the letter was mailed or personally delivered to you. If, however, no rejection letter was received, the lawsuit filing deadline will be two years from the date of the injury.
In other words, you will have to take legal action within six months of the accident. This might seem like a fairly significant amount of time, but it can take months to conduct the investigation and prepare the administrative claim. Also, the more time that passes before the investigation, the higher the chance that valuable evidence will become inaccessible. This is why it’s so important to speak with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. If the six-month deadline has already passed, a lawyer can review your case to find out if the statute of limitations could be tolled, or postponed.
When Might the Government Be Liable for a Personal Injury?
There are many circumstances when a government entity could be liable for damages arising from a personal injury. Generally speaking, you may have grounds for such a claim if your injury was caused by the negligence or intentional wrongdoing of a government entity or one of its employees.
To hold a government entity vicariously liable for the negligence of an employee, you must be able to prove:
- The person who caused your injury was a government employee and not an independent contractor; and
- The liable party was acting within the scope and course of their employment when the accident occurred.
Below are just a few of the scenarios when a government entity might be liable for damages in a personal injury case:
- Auto Accidents Involving Government Vehicles: If you were hit by a police car, ambulance, or other government vehicle, it may be possible to recover damages from the government entity that employed the driver.
- Police Brutality: If police used excessive force and you were injured as a result, you may have grounds for a claim against a government agency.
- Intentional Harm Committed by a Government Employee: Police brutality isn’t the only scenario when government employees could cause intentional harm. Generally speaking, if you were intentionally harmed by a government employee who was acting within the course and scope of their employment at the time, you may have grounds for a personal injury claim against the relevant government entity.
- Negligent Maintenance of Public Premises: If you were injured on government premises, you may have grounds for a claim against the state, county, city, or federal government. To prevail in such a case, you must be able to show that your injury was caused by a dangerous condition on the property and the dangerous condition created a reasonably foreseeable risk of the type of injury you sustained. You must also prove either that the dangerous condition was created by the negligence or wrongful act of an employee of the public entity within the scope of their employment; or that the public entity had constructive or actual knowledge of the dangerous condition and enough time to have taken measures to protect against it.
- Negligent Road Design or Maintenance: Government entities that design and maintain roadways have a duty to exercise reasonable care when doing so. If you were hurt in an auto accident and it is determined that negligent road design or maintenance was a proximate cause, you may be able to bring a claim against a government entity.
What Damages Might Be Available in Personal Injury Claims Against Government Entities?
In most personal injury lawsuits, there are two categories of damages the plaintiff can pursue: compensatory damages and punitive damages; however, if you bring the lawsuit against a government entity in California, you will not be able to obtain punitive damages.
Compensatory damages encompass both economic and non-economic damages. That means they include both the objectively verifiable losses arising from the tort as well as damages for the subjective consequences of the tort. In California, the following compensatory damages may be available in personal injury claims brought against a government entity:
- Costs associated with past and future medical care;
- Loss of income, benefits, and future earnings;
- Property damage;
- Other economic damages such as child care, home and vehicle modifications, and transportation;
- Emotional distress;
- Loss of enjoyment in life;
- Pain and suffering; and
- Loss of consortium.
What Does “Sovereign Immunity” Mean?
Sovereign immunity is a limitation of liability that protects the State of California from tort claims involving certain kinds of accidents. These limitations are outlined in the California Tort Claims Act.
The Act does allow the government to be held liable for damages under specific circumstances. The easiest way to find out if sovereign immunity applies to your case is to speak with a personal injury attorney who has extensive experience handling claims against government entities.
Discuss Your Case with a Long Beach Personal Injury Lawyer
Your Injuries Are Personal to Me
If you were injured on a public property or due to the negligence of a government entity, contact the Law Office of Michael D. Waks. Attorney Michael Waks has an in-depth knowledge of the statutes and case law pertaining to these claims. For a free consultation, call (562) 206-1939 or send us a message on our Contact Page.
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