As a California resident, you often deal with governmental agencies. You go to the DMV to get your driver’s license and/or register your vehicle. You may need to go to the Office of Vital Records to get a certified copy of your birth certificate. Other circumstances also may necessitate your visiting a governmental agency to get needed services. But what if you slip and fall on your way in the door or while there? Can you sue the government? The answer is yes, under certain circumstances.
As reported in the Sacramento Press, under Section 814-895.8 of the California Code, governmental entities are immune from lawsuits for damages unless there is a statutory basis for their liability. In addition, they have a variety of other immunities.
Filing a claim
The California Tort Claims Act, Section 911.2 of the California Code, sets out strict guidelines for filing a claim against any state, county, or local governmental agency or department and/or anyone employed by them. The first requirement is that you file a written claim, not a lawsuit. Such a claim allows the agency to investigate your allegations and defend itself. It also gives the agency an opportunity to determine whether or not it wants to settle your claim before you file suit and correct whatever conditions or practices led to your injury.
If your claim is against a local government entity, you can file it with that entity’s board or clerk. Check to see if the agency has its own claim form for you to fill out. Claims against the State of California must be filed with the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board.
If the agency has no claim form, you can draft your own claim, making sure to include the following information:
- Your name and address
- The address where you want to receive notices, if different than your home address
- The date and location where your injury occurred
- A general description of the circumstances surrounding the incident, your injuries, and the number of damages you are claiming
Statute of Limitations
If your claim is for personal injury, personal property damage, or the wrongful death of a loved one, you must file it within six months after the incident occurred. If your claim is for damage to your home or other real property you own, you must file it within one year of the incident. This longer period of time also applies if you are claiming that the agency breached the terms of a contract it has with you.
This is general information only. You should not interpret it as legal advice to sue the government.