The personal injury and wrongful death trial practice at the Law Offices of James R. Gillen includes initiating actions against municipal, county, and state governments and other public agencies in the Los Angeles area when their negligence has caused serious personal injury or wrongful death.
SOVEREIGN IMMUNITY AND THE TORT CLAIMS ACT
The common law doctrine of sovereign immunity prohibits individuals from suing the government when its employees act negligently. However, both California and the Federal government have enacted Tort Claims Act legislation, allowing such actions when government employees have acted negligently or wrongfully with the scope of their employment and have injured a person by their behavior. In order to sue the government, however, one must take special attention to follow the rules of the applicable statute, which provides timelines and procedures quite different from a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit against a private individual or entity.
NOTICE AND STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS
California law requires an injured person to first give notice to the appropriate government agency about the accident. This notice must be filed within six months after the accident in most cases, although it may be up to a year depending upon the circumstances. In either case, this timeframe is considerably shorter than the two year statute of limitations applicable to lawsuits against private parties. Once the notice is filed, the governmental entity has up to 45 days to respond and either settle or reject the claim before the injured plaintiff may file a lawsuit.
TYPES OF CLAIMS AGAINST GOVERNMENT ENTITIES
Bus and train accidents frequently involve questions of governmental immunity, given the plethora of city and county transit authorities operating buses, trains, and subways across miles of roads and highways throughout southern California. In addition, state, county, and city governments operate huge fleets of vehicles, and accidents involving any of these cars or trucks can provide the basis for a claim for damages. Finally, government agencies owe a duty to inspect and maintain government property, including warning of dangers or repairing defects on the premises, the same as owners of private property. A person injured on government property may have a premises liability claim against the responsible public agency for the damages caused.
DO I HAVE A CLAIM?
A basic rule of thumb in determining governmental liability is to consider whether the behavior of the government employee could be the basis for a lawsuit if the individual were a private person. If the answer is yes, then an action can probably proceed against the government under the Tort Claims Act. There are many exceptions and limitations in both the state and federal laws, so it wise to contact an experienced at the outset to help you understand the facets of your case.
At the Law Offices of James R. Gillen, we are committed to seeking justice for injured persons and their families when the negligent or wrongful behavior of another has caused severe personal injury or wrongful death. If you or a loved one suffered an injury involving potential governmental liability, call James Gillen right away at (877) 619-3095 to preserve your claim and protect your rights.