When the negligence of another party causes you injury, you can take legal action to secure compensation and hold that person responsible. It’s not quite that simple if you’re dealing with a government entity, but the California Tort Claims Act (CTCA) allows you to receive fair compensation.
For this article, we’re going to take a closer look at the California Tort Claims Act and see how it can prove helpful. We’ll also discuss the steps you need to take if you want to pursue a lawsuit against a government agency or employee.
We all know how complex dealings with the government can become. Allow the information included in this article to shed more light on the matter so that you can take the right course of action in the future.
Sovereign Immunity and How It Complicates the Process of Suing
To better understand why creating the California Tort Claims Act was even necessary, we first need to talk about the concept of sovereign immunity.
According to Cornell Law School, sovereign immunity is an aspect of British common law that was adopted and tweaked before being implemented here in the United States. Basically, the idea behind establishing sovereign immunity was to protect the monarchs.
In the eyes of the old law, you cannot hold the monarchs in power at fault. Since that was the case, no citizen could put forth a lawsuit against them even if their actions brought about harm.
Instead, what we have here is immunity that protects government agencies and their employees. Sovereign immunity is the doctrine from which governments have sought protection. That doctrine has shielded them from possible lawsuits on numerous occasions.
However, government agencies and officials no longer enjoy blanket immunity from the negative effects caused by their actions. Numerous laws have passed since then that make it possible for private citizens to hold the government accountable for their negligent actions. The California Tort Claims Act is among those many laws.
What Is the California Tort Claims Act?
The California Tort Claims Act does a few things that all residents of the state need to know./p>
First off, it does clarify that public entities are not liable for injury in many situations. That again is due to the concept of sovereign immunity we have adopted.
Notably, though, what the CTCA also does is highlight specific situations where you can file claims against the government. Those include a variety of personal injury cases.
The Cases Covered by the California Tort Claims Act
Vehicular accidents are in the CTCA. If you were in an accident involving a car or bus being utilized by the government at the time, you can file a lawsuit to receive compensation for any injuries you sustain.
In cases where the medical negligence of a government employee caused you injury, you can proceed with filing a lawsuit. Government employees who willfully harm you resulting in assault and battery can also be held liable.
It doesn’t all need to be related to physical injuries. Private citizens can also file lawsuits against the government if the entity in question committed a breach of contract or became a nuisance to the plaintiff.
Sorting Through Premises Liability When Government Entities Are Involved
Picture this scenario for a moment. Let’s say that you were on government property when you slipped, fell, and sustained an injury.
Is it possible for you to receive compensation from the government in that scenario?
The answer is yes, but there are some major caveats to consider. If you want any chance of receiving compensation for injuries you believe were caused by negligence on the part of the government, you must prove a few things.
Prove That the Place Where You Got Injured Was Dangerous
The first thing you must do is prove to the court that the place where you were hurt was hazardous when you were there. You must prove that the poor maintenance or a lack of diligence on the part of the government led to that place becoming dangerous.
Prove That the Accident Caused Your Injuries
Next, you must prove that the accident caused your injuries. You'll need to prove that the fall is the reason why you injured your back or something like that.
Prove the Condition of the Building Could Have Caused Your Injury and That it Involved Negligence
One more thing you need to prove is that it was reasonable to think that the condition of the government building could have caused the injury you ultimately sustained.
The roof may have been leaking in that government building, thus causing puddles of water to form. Given the presence of the leak and the puddles, it would be reasonable to believe that someone could be hurt while walking through that building.
It's not enough to show the condition of the government building; you also must demonstrate the fact that negligence on the part of a government entity is what led to that dangerous situation.
What that means is showing that the government entity had more than enough time to remedy the danger but opted not to. You can also attempt to prove that a willful and negligent act on the part of a public employee is what led to the building becoming so hazardous.
Who Should You File Claims Against?
Filing a lawsuit under the California Tort Claims Act is different from how you would sue private individuals in several ways. Among the most significant dissimilarities is that you’re not suing the person directly responsible for what happened. The party you’re filing against if you want to receive compensation is the agency or entity responsible for that individual.
What that means is that you’ll need to determine which specific government agency or entity employs the negligent individual in your case if you want to push forward with a lawsuit. Government employees are not the only parties that are in the CTCA. Independent contractors hired by the government can also be held accountable by suing the agency responsible for them.
When Is a Government Entity Responsible for the Actions of Its Employee or Independent Contractor?
Suing the government for the actions of their employees or independent contractors is not an option all the time. One of two things must be true before you can proceed with that legal motion.
The first scenario is if that person in question was basically doing their job. If they were on the clock when their vehicle collided with yours, for example, then the government can be held responsible.
The government is also responsible for employees or independent contractors carrying out tasks on their behalf.
Is It Possible to Hold Government Agencies Responsible for Not Doing Their Job?
Negligence is not only the irresponsible actions committed by a certain party. It can also account for the actions they failed to take, which could’ve kept the people around them safer. Think of it like a dog owner failing to keep their pet on a leash when they went out for a walk.
You can sue government agencies for that kind of negligence.
Under the law, certain agencies carry out specific actions. Failing to carry out those actions is an example of a government agency being negligent towards its duties. If that negligence results in you getting injured or damaging your property, you may file a claim and seek compensation.
How Should You Go about Filing a Lawsuit against the Government?
We've determined that filing a lawsuit against the government is possible if it meets certain conditions. That's a good thing because it means that they can pay for injuries or property damage if they were responsible.
You need to act quickly and be detailed if you want the claim to have any chance of succeeding.
Let’s talk about how to file a lawsuit against the government properly in this section of the article.
You Must File Your Lawsuit Immediately
You need to follow time limits when it comes to filing personal injury lawsuits. In ordinary cases, plaintiffs in California are typically given around two years to file from the day of the accident.
Don’t assume you have that much time if you’re filing a lawsuit against the government.
Residents of California are only given up to six months from the original day of the incident that caused injury or property damage to file their lawsuit. That's not a lot of time, especially if you need to stay in the hospital to recover from your injuries.
There are certain situations where plaintiffs can file a claim even beyond the six-month statute of limitations. Filing late is an option if you were incapacitated due to your injuries or if some mistake was present in your original filing.
A plaintiff dying before filing could also be grounds for submitting a lawsuit after the six-month window. Minors who need to wait before they are of legal age to sue are also permitted to submit a late claim.
Do note, however, that filing late must still be avoided as much as possible. After all, those late claims are more likely to be denied.If you don’t want to run the risk of missing the deadline, hire an experienced attorney to handle the job for you.
You Must File a Detailed Claim
Being thorough is a must if you want to file a successful lawsuit against the government. Failing to include all the relevant details in your original claim can lead to dismissal and missing out on due compensation.
Your name should obviously be in the claim and include your address too. Make sure that the address is the one where you want future notices to be sent.
If you know the person who was responsible for the injury or property damage, go ahead and include their name in the filing.
Next, you must go into detail about what happened that is now causing you to file a claim. This is where you should relay the details of the incident, such as when, where, and how it happened. Mention the transaction in question if you’re suing for a breach of contract.
After that, you should explain how what happened led to your current circumstances. Talk about injuries you may have sustained, or the damage done to your property.You should also indicate how much you’re suing for if the amount is under $10,000. Plaintiffs are also required to detail how they came up with that dollar figure.
If the compensation you’re seeking exceeds $10,000 but is not over $25,000, you must indicate that your claim is a limited civil case.
What You Can Expect after Filing Your Claim
Several outcomes may take place after you file your claim.
Hopefully, the government agency you sued will approve your claim and provide you with the compensation you desired. That’s the best case scenario.
It’s also possible that the government will approve your claim but deny paying the compensation you indicated in your lawsuit. In that case, the government agency may enter into negotiations with you and attempt to reach a settlement.
The government could also only approve part of your claim but seek to settle all the same.
Consider yourself lucky if you get one of those outcomes.
There are cases where the government will flatly reject your claim or ignore it completely. For reference, the government will typically respond to a claim one way or another within 45 days, so consider your lawsuit ignored if you don’t hear anything past that timeframe.
Don’t lose hope if your claim is rejected or ignored. You can still file a petition in the hopes of receiving the compensation you believe you deserve.
The government could also return the claim to you, meaning you will need to provide additional information if you want it to be approved. Be sure to respond quickly if that happens, or else your claim could still wind up rejected.
Filing a lawsuit against the government can be an arduous ordeal. Enlist the help of experienced attorneys if you want to succeed. Allow us at the Saeedian Law Group to help by getting in touch with us today.