In the event of personal injury accidents, insurance claims can be made against the individual’s insurance policy, who was at fault. Most private insurance policies give victims one to two years to file a regular insurance claim which is nothing more than giving them information about the claimant and expenses. However, when a government entity, government employee or the government itself is responsible for the injuries, that falls under the California Tort Claims Act, otherwise known as the Government Claims Act. This requires an injured person to give written notice to the responsible government entity within a set period of time or lose the opportunity to file a lawsuit and recover money damages potentially forever. So the major difference between a regular insurance claim and a government claim is that it is mandatory to present a written claim to the responsible government entity within a specified amount of time and the government entity must accept or reject the government claim. Most government claims must be presented within six (6) months of the injury or accident.
In addition to a short timeline to file a government claim, government entities are also protected from suit for a variety of claims based on “sovereign immunity.” This means that a government entity is not liable for any injury caused by its employees or the government entity itself. There are some claims that are allowed against a government entity where a person can recover compensation for medical bills, loss of earnings and pain and suffering. Some claims allowed under the Government Claims Act are:
- Car accidents;
- Trip and Fall accidents (such as a sidewalk);
- City or County bus accidents;
- School accidents or injuries;
- Assault and battery; and
- Wrongful death.
If you have a claim and are within the short timeline to file a government claim, you have to properly file and present the government claim. This means that your claim is complete and thoroughly describes you, the facts of the incident, the description of your claim, your injuries, names of all government entities or employees that may be at fault and amount of compensation you are seeking if it is less than $10,000.00. If it is more, than no dollar amount is needed. The government claim then must be presented to the correct government agency responsible for the injuries, which means ensuring that it is actually received by the clerk, secretary, auditor, or board of supervisors.
Many government claims are rejected and therein allows the injured party to file a lawsuit. The timeline to file a lawsuit depends on how and when the rejection was done. So it is very important that any and all correspondence received from the government entity be carefully reviewed. Note that there are also certain instances where a government claim can be presented late or past the six (6) month deadline.
If you have a government claim that is timely or late, you are going to need a tough and experienced attorney on your side. Contact Karns & Karns for representation in these matters. We can help.