California Tort Claims Act 2017
California’s Tort Claims Act (CTCA) includes the rules and regulations that govern how claims are filed against a government entity. If the government is to be named in a lawsuit, the claim must fall within the guidelines of the California Tort Claims Act.
Situations wherein your claim will fall under the Act include:
- You trip and fall in a government building
- A county vehicle is involved in a motor vehicle accident with you
If a government employee or agency was negligent in some way, you’ll need to follow the guidelines of the California Tort Claims Act. But if the government was not involved in any way leading up to your injury, a personal injury lawsuit can be filed.
Timely Written Claims: 6 Months to File
A public entity can only be sued if the plaintiff:
- Provides a written claim for damages
- Provides the written claim within 6 months of the incident
Unlike personal injury claims which have a two-year period to file a lawsuit, you must file a lawsuit against a governmental entity, or public entity, within a six-month period. Failure to make your claim within this time, which will be presented to the entity in question, will void your ability to file a claim.
The time starts to tick once the incident occurs – when you’re filled with medical urgencies, financial issues and life-changing events.
If you’ve made your claim in accordance to the government code, you’ll need to wait.
Public Entity Responsibility
If you’ve provided your written claim, the public entity must respond in a 45-day period after being served. The public entity will respond with the entity’s action on the claim. The entity has four main options at this point in the claim process:
- Reject the claim
- Accept the claim
- Reject in part
Reject in part and compromise are the two options that provide the most concern. An entity has the legal right to reject in part, but accept the balance of the claim. A compromise will be a negotiation wherein you’ll need to go back and forth with the entity.
What happens if you don’t receive a response?
- If no response is given to your claim, the court will view this as a rejection. A rejected claim can be beneficial because a claim that’s rejected provides a 2-year period from the date of the injury to file suit.
- If a proper response is given, you as the claimant, have just six months to file suit.
You have just six months to file suit, so it’s imperative to file within the statute of limitations or lose your right to file. Government agencies and employees often respond to written notices. It’s very unlikely that the notice will go unanswered, although it can and does occur.
Limitations and Expectations Under the California Tort Claims Act
CTCA encompasses all civil liability for money and damages. You can follow the Act when you’re in a car accident with a government employee or you fall in a government building due to a negligent act that failed to make an essential repair.
Negligence of a government employee must fall within:
- The scope of employment
- In the course of a government function
For example, if a government employee was out on the weekend, enjoying a day off and was in a car accident, they cannot be sued as a government employee. A personal injury claim would need to be filed instead.
And if the employee decided to go to the bar when they were in the middle of work, the government agency can argue that the accident was caused by actions not within the scope of the employee’s job.
Under the CTCA, you cannot file a claim against the negligent person directly.
So, if you can file a claim against the local government, you cannot target the employee directly in a separate case. This provides protection for employees and ensures that multiple cases for the same circumstance are not filed.
Public entitles are liable for injuries that are a result of the entity’s failure to carry out their duty.
In essence, this means that if a public entity is tasked with protecting the public in some way and doesn’t carry out their duty, they may face legal action. A fire department is a great example of a public entity that has a duty to the public.
If the fire department failed to respond to a call, the person injured in the fire can seek damages against the fire department.
But there are some exceptions to the law, too, such as:
- Injuries related to failed or passed legislation
- Injuries sustained by the National Guard
- Injuries due to the issuing of a permit, license or order
- Injuries due to failing to enforce the law
- Injuries due to misrepresentation
You cannot sue the government for their failure to pass a legislation. You can also not sue the government because they supplied a driver with a license and said driver caused a motor vehicle accident.
The CTCA requires that the government or the employee had to act in some negligent manner to be held responsible under the CTCA.
Filing a Claim
If you plan to file a claim against a county, state or government entity or agency in California, you must provide a written notice with the following information:
- Name and mailing address of the claimant
- Mailing address where notices are to be mailed
- Date of the incident
- Location of the incident
- Detailed description of the incident
- Name of government entity or employees that caused the injury (when possible)
You’ll also need to claim losses. If the losses are under $10,000, you must list the claim and note how the figure was calculated. If the claim of losses is more than $10,000, you’ll need to determine if the case is a limited civil case, or a case where you’re seeking less than $25,000 in damages.
Many municipalities in California offer a free form that will act as a written notice. I recommend searching for and using one of these forms when available. The forms streamline the notice process and ensure that you provide all necessary information to move forward with your claim.
If you or a loved one has been injured and it was not your fault you shouldn’t hesitate to contact Hamparyan Injury Lawyers to arrange a free consultation to assess whether you are eligible to file a personal injury claim.
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