The California Tort Claims Act: Suing the State of California and other Government Entities

If you are injured in an accident and believe that the government may be responsible your ability to recover compensation may be limited. As a general rule, you have two years from the moment you are injured in an accident to file a claim for damages from a liable party.

If the government is responsible, however, this timeframe is drastically reduced. If you fail to follow the proper guidelines and file a claim within the allotted amount of time you may be barred from recovering anything at all.

Fortunately, the personal injury attorneys at Citywide Law Group have decades of experience handling governmental personal injury claims. If you have been injured and believe the government may be (even partly) responsible, contact our office today to get started.

Holding the Government Responsible Under the California Tort Claims Act

The California Tort Claims Act permits individuals to seek financial relief if they were injured (1) by a government employee, (2) while on government property, or (3) because of the government’s negligence. Under the law, an injured party may seek monetary compensation for a physical injury, property damage, or violation of a Constitutional right.

If you are interested in pursuing compensation from the government you must file a claim with the appropriate government entity within six months of the date of the accident. This is significantly shorter than the two year window that is allowed for personal injury claims against non-governmental parties.

Why do you only have 6 months? The idea behind the shorter window of time is to encourage victims to notify the government as soon as possible after an accident. The government – armed with knowledge of improper conduct or negligence – can then act on the information to prevent others from sustaining similar injuries.

In theory, the sooner you file your claim, the sooner the government can fix the situation that caused your injury.

What If I Miss the 6 Month Window To File a Claim?

Unfortunately, unless you speak to an attorney or do a little bit of research after an accident you may not be aware that you have a shortened window to file a claim.

Generally speaking, if you do not file a claim within 6 months of the accident (or within 6 months of discovering an injury) you will not be permitted to recover compensation. There are, however, exceptions to this rule. California will allow you to submit what is known as an application for late filing.

An application for late filing is comprised of two things.

First, it includes the claim that you would have submitted had you not missed the deadline.

Second, it includes a letter which asks the appropriate government entity to overlook your tardiness. Your application for late filing may be based on one of four exceptions.

  1. First, you may argue mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect.
  2. Second, you may argue that a physical or mental incapacity kept you from filing in a timely manner.
  3. Third, you can explain that you were a minor at the time of your injury and for the entire 6 month period that followed.
  4. Finally, you can explain that you are asserting the claim on behalf of the original claimant, who has died.

An application for late filing also has a deadline – they must be filed within 1 year of an injury. If you contact an experienced Los Angeles personal injury attorney they will make sure that your filed claim is within the permissible window of time.

When Will the Government Respond to My Claim?

The government is required to respond to your claim within 45 days. If the government approves your claim you have essentially agreed to a settlement. You will not be required to file a lawsuit, but will instead work directly with the government to recover the amount you requested in your claim. This is an unlikely outcome – the government is far more likely to (a) approve your claim in part and deny your claim in part or (b) deny your claim in full.

If the government denies your claim, whether in its entirety or in part, you may file a civil claim for damages with the appropriate court. This claim must be filed within 6 months of the denial.

If the government denies your claim in part the process for recovering damages can become complicated and messy. An experienced Los Angeles personal injury attorney understands the process and will fight to ensure that you are fully compensated for your injuries.

There is a (slim) chance that the government won’t respond to your claim. If this happens – which is rare – the original personal injury statute of limitations is reinstated. This means that you have two years from the date of the accident to file a civil claim.

What Damages Can I Recover From the Government?

Personal injury victims are limited to recovering monetary damages in claims pursued under the California Tort Claims Act.

Damages are generally broken down into two categories: economic and non-economic.

Economic damages are paid to compensate for easily identifiable costs and expenses such as medical bills, rehabilitation, surgery, and lost wages.

Non-economic damages are paid to compensate for injuries that can vary greatly from case-to-case and harder to value. These may include mental anguish, embarrassment, loss of consortium, loss of companionship, or pain and suffering.

Personal injury victims may not recover punitive damages in claims pursued under the California Tort Claims Act.

Contact an Experienced Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney

If you are injured in a Los Angeles accident and believe the government is responsible you should call an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible. Claims must be filed quickly and they must be persuasive. You can maximize your chances of recovering the compensation you need by hiring an attorney.

Call Citywide Law Group today for a free, no-commitment consultation to learn about your legal options. We work on a contingency fee basis, which means that you can focus on your recovery. We get paid when we recover compensation for you.

For more information, call our law firm at (424) 248-2700 or visit our contact us page to send us an email.