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Can You Sue a Government Entity for Wrongful Death in California?

The loss of a family member in an accident is one of the most heartbreaking and emotionally devastating things that any person can be forced to endure. It can be even more difficult to cope with the tragedy when you find out that the fatal accident could have been prevented with adequate safety precautions—particularly when a government employee or government entity is at fault. 

This raises an important question: Can you sue the government for a wrongful death? In California, the answer is generally “yes’—but there are some specialized rules and regulations in place. In this article, our Stockton wrongful death lawyer explains the key things to know about bringing a wrongful death claim against a state or local government entity in California. 

Background: Government Agencies have Sovereign Immunity

Did you know that government agencies and government entities are technically “immune” from lawsuits under the American legal system? This is because of a doctrine known as sovereign immunity. Simply put, the legal principle of sovereign immunity holds that the government cannot be sued without its consent, including for personal injury and wrongful death. 

There is a solution to this problem. Federal and state legislation has been put into place that creates a number of different exceptions—meaning federal, state, and local government entities can actually be sued for wrongful death in a wide range of different circumstances. 

Know the Law: FTCA and CTCA

Signed into law shortly after the end of World War II, the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) is a federal statute that allows federal agencies to be sued for many tort violations, including for wrongful death. California has a very similar state-level statute in place. Under the California Tort Claims Act (CTCA), sovereign immunity has been waived for state and local government agencies facing a wide range of tort claims.  

You Have Limited Time to Initiate a Wrongful Death Claim Against the Government

If you are preparing to file a wrongful death lawsuit against a local or state agency in California, your right to do so arises, in part, from the California Tort Claims Act. In general, wrongful death claims are regulated by a two-year statute of limitations in California. When suing a private party defendant for the wrongful death of your family member, you typically have two years from the date of their death to bring your claim. 

However, there is an additional (more strict) deadline under the California Tort Claims Act. To file a lawsuit against a government entity—including a wrongful death lawsuit—you must file a written notice of your intent to sue within six months of your family member’s passing. If you fail to initiate the wrongful death claims process in a timely manner, your legal claim may be time-barred. Do not wait to take action: consult with a Stockton, CA wrongful death lawyer as soon as possible. 

Giving Written Notice of a Wrongful Death Under the CTCA

To ensure that your wrongful death claim against a state or local government agency will be allowed to proceed in California, you must satisfy all of the notice requirements contained within the CTCA. As noted above, written notice of the claim should be provided within six months of your family’s members’ passing. The sooner, the better. Further, written notice should include the following: 

  • Name and address of the wrongful death claimant(s); 
  • The time, date, and location of the fatal accident in question; 
  • A comprehensive description of the fatal accident, including the government’s liability; and
  • The identity of the public workers or public agencies involved. 

All wrongful death claims are complicated. They are among the most emotionally fraught, legally challenging types of cases. The process is even more difficult to navigate when the government is the primary defendant and you have to navigate your responsibilities under the California Tort Claims Act. An experienced Stockton wrongful death attorney will protect your rights and interests. 

Give Our Stockton, CA Wrongful Death Lawyers a Call for Immediate Help

At Redkey Gordon Law Corp, our Stockton wrongful death attorneys provide compassionate, reliable legal guidance and support to grieving families. If your family is preparing to file a wrongful death claim against a government entity, we are available to help. Reach out to our team by phone or send us a message for a no cost, strictly private initial appointment with an attorney. We handle wrongful death claims around the area, including in Stockton, Sacramento, Sutter Creek, Lodi, Manteca, Elk Grove, French Camp, and Modesto.