If you were injured on city, county or state property, including on school grounds or on public transportation, you may have a case against a public entity.
In California the term “public entity” applies to any state, or local government entities. This includes government corporations, agencies, authorities, and judicial officers.
If you do file a complaint against a public entity, don’t lollygag! The statute of limitations for claims against public entities is only six months-much shorter than the two years allowed for many personal injury lawsuits.
In the East Bay, if an AC Transit bus hit you as you crossed the street, you have a claim against a public entity. If you crashed your car due to an obvious road hazard, you might have a claim against the entity that maintains that roadway.
How do I file a claim against a public entity?
If you want to make a claim against a public entity for damages (aka money), you must first file an Administrative Claim under the California Tort Claims Act. You’ve got six months from the date of injury to do this. Many cases never come to pass because the aggrieved person waited too long to file a claim. Don’t let this be you.
As you might expect, the California Tort Claims Act lays out procedures that you must follow to file an administrative claim. Also, state and local entities may have their own procedures. To make sure you properly file your claim, it’s best to consult with a personal injury lawyer that has experience handling government claims.
With the claim filed, the government entity’s governing body or board reviews the claim. It has 45 days to do so. If it rejects your claim, you have six months from the date it mails the notification to file a lawsuit. Again, don’t lollygag!
What should I expect?
It’s a challenge, but not impossible, to prevail in a claim against a public entity. Aside from the strict rules, many agencies and employees are immune from negligence lawsuits. Each state has different immunity laws. The immunities arise from the long ago tradition that “The King can do no wrong.”
Also, an individual can’t recover punitive damages from the government. Punitive damages exist to have a deterrent effect (hence the “punishing” name), and in the government’s case, it does not apply.
If you were injured on public property, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as you are able. A lawyer can help you navigate the governmental maze of rules and regulations and advocate on your behalf.