Public entities, state agencies, and government employees are not completely immune from lawsuits if they are involved in an accident that causes you or a loved one harm. However, the law provides only a small window in which to file a claim against the government for damages. At Williams Iagmin, LLP we have an intricate knowledge of government liability in California and are here to help our clients navigate the complex legal process to get you the compensation you deserve.
The California Tort Claims Act is codified in state law, and it dictates when a person can sue a government employee or entity for personal injury. Otherwise known as sovereign immunity, the Act states that as a general rule, the government cannot be sued for injuries caused by its entities or employees, with some exceptions.
The main exception to California’s sovereign immunity is for negligence. A government agency and its employees are liable for damages if their negligence caused an accident while in the scope of their employment or function. This rule also applies to independent contractors of a government entity. In order to sue for negligence, an accident victim must prove that a public entity’s negligent acts or omission proximately caused an injury that resulted in damages while acting in the scope of his or her employment.
A lawsuit may also be filed against a government agency for damages if it fails to carry out a duty imposed by law. In this case, a person must prove that a mandatory duty exists, that the duty was intended to prevent the harm caused, and that as a result of the failure, the person suffered damages. A common example of this is a publicly funded fire station ignoring the call to put out a fire in a person’s home.
A final exception to the rule is for dangerous conditions on a public premises. Government entities are responsible for the upkeep of the property on which they operate. This means making any necessary repairs and warning visitors of any potential hazards that they know or should have known about on the property. In order to bring a lawsuit for dangerous public property, a person must show that a dangerous condition exists on the property controlled by a public entity, that the hazard exists through the negligent act or omission of a government employee acting within the scope of employment, that no reasonable measures to protect against the dangerous condition was taken, and that the dangerous conditions caused the harm and damages.
Under these exceptions, a person may bring a lawsuit for money or damages against the government, which includes both economic and non-economic damages that result from an accident. This includes medical bills, lost wages, lost earning capacity, property damage, pain and suffering, emotional distress, loss of enjoyment of life, loss of consortium, and wrongful death damages.
Unlike other personal injury claims, under California law a person who is claiming governmental liability only has six months from the date of the injury to file a notice for damages. This notice must include the victim’s personal contact information, an explanation of the accident and injuries, a general description of all damages claimed as a result of the accident, how the costs were calculated, if above $10,000 whether the case will be filed as a “limited civil case,” and if known, the names of the government employees at fault for the injuries. The government will review the notice and either accept or reject the claims. If any or all of the claims are rejected by the government, then a lawsuit can be filed.
If you have been hurt by a government employee or entity you might have a claim for damages, but you have to act fast. Call or contact us today at Williams Iagmin, LLP for a free consultation for your case. We promise to fight the government and get you the compensation you deserve.