If you are injured on public property in the state of California – and it can happen to anyone – here’s what you need to know about getting compensated for your injuries. Generally speaking, if you trip and you are injured because of a broken city sidewalk – or if you trip and you’re injured at the public library because the carpeting was curled up – the city is liable. But keep reading – that’s only the beginning.
A city government’s liability does not necessarily mean that you can file a personal injury lawsuit and successfully sue City Hall. When a government entity is named as the defendant in a personal injury claim, it’s complicated legally, and it’s tougher than you might think to win compensation for an injury that happens on public property. If it happens to you, you’ll need an attorney’s help.
Public entity personal injury cases involve trip-and-fall accidents, slip-and-fall accidents, and other injury-causing accidents that happen on government properties such as sidewalks and public parks, or in buildings like public schools, libraries, and courthouses. If you are injured on public property in California, discuss your rights and options at once with an experienced Fresno personal injury attorney.
WHAT IS SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY?
Federal, state, and local government bodies and agencies, including school districts, are generally protected from personal injury lawsuits by the legal principle of “sovereign immunity,” which exempts governments from liability for any injury caused by a government entity or its employees.
The law in California, however, spells out several specific exceptions to sovereign immunity, including:
– if you are injured by a city’s negligence to maintain city property – like a sidewalk
– if you are injured by a city employee’s negligence – a reckless bus driver, for example
– if a school district’s negligence injures your child or violates his or her rights
WHAT’S REQUIRED BEFORE YOU CAN SUE THE GOVERNMENT?
A number of criteria must be met before a personal injury lawsuit can be filed against any government body or agency in California. For example, before you can file a lawsuit, you first must file a notice – or a “claim” – with the government body or agency that you believe is liable for your injury, and that claim must satisfy the requirements of the California Tort Claims Act.
With almost no exceptions, a government body or agency in the state of California may not be sued for monetary damages arising from an injury unless a written notice has been filed within the first six months after the injury occurred.
By completing and filing your claim, you are giving the government entity or agency:
– an opportunity to settle the claim before you file a lawsuit
– time to investigate the claim so that the government agency can prepare its defense
– a chance to correct the conditions or practices that led to your claim
Even if you haven’t decided whether to sue after being injured on public property or by a public employee, filing a claim is smart. It protects your rights and keeps your options open. Six months also gives your healthcare provider time to assess your injuries comprehensively, and it gives your personal injury lawyer some time to assess the evidence and question any witnesses.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU MISS THE DEADLINE FOR FILING YOUR CLAIM?
If you do not file your claim within the six-month window, you may be prohibited from subsequently bringing a personal injury lawsuit. If you have been injured on public property or by a government employee in California, have an experienced Fresno personal injury attorney help you file the claim and advise you regarding a possible personal injury lawsuit.
When a local government or government employee is responsible for your injury, your claim must be submitted directly to the government agency’s governing board or clerk. In California, most local governments and agencies have their own claim form. You should complete that form with an attorney’s help.
WHAT INFORMATION MUST BE INCLUDED WITH YOUR CLAIM?
If it’s the state government that is liable for your injury, your claim must be submitted to the California Department of General Services Office of Risk Management. If a government agency does not provide its own claim form, your personal injury attorney will help you create one.
Your claim must include this information:
– your name and address
– the address where you would like to receive correspondence
– the date, location, and circumstances regarding your claim
– a brief description of your injuries and damages
– the name of the employee(s) who caused your injury (if known to you)
– the amount you are claiming and how that figure was arrived at (if less than $10,000)
If you are claiming more than $10,000, indicate whether your lawsuit will be a “limited” case (for less than $25,000) or an “unlimited” case (for more than $25,000).
After filing your claim, the governmental agency has 45 days to respond. Your claim will be investigated, and if the investigation’s results support your claim, the agency may offer you a settlement. Do not accept any settlement of your claim without first consulting your personal injury attorney. If your claim is rejected, you will be notified in writing, and you may proceed with a personal injury lawsuit.
HOW LONG DO YOU HAVE TO FILE A LAWSUIT AGAINST THE GOVERNMENT?
If there is no response to your claim within 45 days, it is the equivalent of a rejection, and you can take the matter to court. If you receive a written rejection, your lawsuit must be filed within six months of the rejection’s postmark date. If there is no response to your claim, you have two years from the date your injury to bring a personal injury lawsuit.
These are the steps you must take if you’ve been injured in California on public property or by a public employee. Still, every case is unique, so the first and most important step is obtaining legal advice and aggressive representation from an experienced Fresno personal injury attorney from the very beginning. As soon as you’ve received medical attention after an injury, arrange a legal consultation.
If you have been injured by negligence in California – whether the negligent party was an individual, a business, or the government, you are entitled to full compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain, suffering, and all related damages. Let an experienced California personal injury lawyer guide you through the legal process and fight for the compensation you need and the justice you deserve.