Were you injured in a serious accident in San Joaquin County, California? If so, you have the right to hold the at-fault party liable for the full extent of your damages, including for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. You can even bring a claim against a negligent federal, state, or local government entity. However, claims against the government are more complicated. Special rules and regulations apply. In this blog post, our Stockton personal injury attorneys provide a comprehensive guide to claims against government entities in California.
The Background: Sovereign Immunity and Tort Claims
Under the American legal system, the government is actually protected against lawsuits. Both the United States federal government and the State of California are entitled to sovereign immunity protections. The Cornell Legal Information Institute defines sovereign immunity as a legal doctrine that holds that the “government cannot be sued without its consent.” With this overriding system in place, there are specialized federal and state statutes that allow injured victims to bring claims against government agencies. Here is a brief overview of the key laws you need to know:
- Federal Tort Claims Act: Passed into law in 1946, the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) permits private parties (individuals) to bring a lawsuit in federal court for many types of torts committed by the government. The FTCA is the basis of a personal injury claim against most federal government agencies.
- California Tort Claims Act: Modelled largely after the federal statute, the California Tort Claims Act (CTCA) is a state law that allows private parties (individuals) to bring tort claims against the State of California and its agencies. You may be able to bring a personal injury lawsuit through the CTCA.
Common Examples of Personal Injury Claims Against the Government
Under the Federal Tort Claims Act and the California Tort Claims Act, you can hold federal and state agencies liable for a wide range of different accidents. Indeed, federal, state, and local government entities can be held responsible for negligence on an agency-wide basis and the negligence of individual employees. Some personal injury claims that may fall under the FTCA or CTCA include:
- Automobile accidents;
- Truck accidents;
- Failure to conduct adequate highway maintenance;
- Negligent acts of government employees;
- Unsafe conditions in public places, including in government buildings; and
- Medical negligence and medical malpractice claims.
FTCA/CTCA Claims are Negligence Claims
Both federal law and state law allow injured victims to hold government agencies liable for negligence in certain circumstances. To bring a successful personal injury claim under the FTCA or the CTCA, you must provide strong, compelling evidence that demonstrates that your accident occurred due to the recklessness or carelessness of a government agency or a government employee. These are complicated cases. A comprehensive, well-supported claim is a must. All serious accidents require an in-depth investigation from an experienced Stockton, CA car accident attorney.
Special Rule: Prompt Notice in a California Tort Claims Act Case
After an accident, it is crucial that injured victims take immediate action to protect themselves. This always starts with seeking prompt medical attention from a qualified physician. Next, the accident should be investigated—so that all relevant evidence is preserved. Then, any claim must be filed before the statute of limitations runs out. In California, the statute of limitations for most personal injury claims is two years.
That being said, you have less time to initiate the claims process under the California Tort Claims Act. The CTCA generally requires that an injured victim must provide written notice to the government within six months of the date of their accident. If you miss this deadline, you could lose your opportunity to hold a state or local government entity liable for your damages. Call an experienced Stockton, CA personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after a serious accident.
How to Give Notice in a CTCA Case
If you want to file a personal injury lawsuit against the government or a government agency in California, you must give the appropriate party written notice within six months of your accident. By doing so, you will give the at-fault government entity an opportunity to resolve the claim. To meet the requirements of the California Tort Claims Act, written notice must include:
- Your name and mailing information;
- The date of the incident;
- A general description of what happened;
- The name of any government employee whose negligence contributed to the accident;
- The specific amount claim is under $10,000, or notice that claim exceeds $10,000.
The CTCA has strict filing standards. It is imperative that written notice meets all applicable legal requirements. If you are preparing to file a claim against the government, a Stockton personal injury attorney with experience handling CTCA cases can help.
Personal Injury Claims and Limitations Under the CTCA
The CTCA waives sovereign immunity for a wide range of different types of claims. That being said, the law has certain limitations in place. State and local government entities retain their legal immunity for many types of claims. For example, you cannot sue the State of California for damages caused by the California National Guard when it has been deployed to deal with an emergency. If you have any questions about whether you have the right to file a certain type of personal injury lawsuit under the Federal Tort Claims Act or the California Tort Claims Act, an attorney can help.
Contact Our Stockton, CA Personal Injury Lawyers for a Free Review of Your Case
At Redkey Gordon Law Corp, our Stockton personal injury attorneys are standing by, ready to take action to help you and your family get justice and full financial support. You need money to pay your bills after an accident. If you have any questions about filing a personal injury claim against a state or local government entity, we are more than ready to help. Contact our law firm right away to arrange your free, no-obligation initial consultation. Our attorneys represent injured victims throughout Central California from our offices in Stockton and Sutter Creek.