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Government and Public Entity Lawsuits

Before you may sue a public entity in the state of California you must first file an administrative claim – called a government tort claim – to put the government/public entity on notice. This is required under the California Tort Claims Act (CTCA). This law applies if you plan to file a claim/bring a lawsuit against all forms of public entities such as state, county, and local government agencies or departments as well as to government employees.


Why is this important?

In general, an individual may not sue a government entity for monetary damages without first filing a written “government claim” within the legally allowed time period. The California Tort Claims Act requires this step be taken first to put the public entity on notice and allow them to investigate the claim so that it can properly defend itself, or correct the dangerous condition that led to the claim.

How long do you have to file claims?

Generally speaking, the timeframe to file a government claim in the state of California is much shorter than normal statutes of limitations in cases. The California Tort Claims Act requires that that you must file your claim with the government entity within the following time periods, or you may be forever barred from bringing your claim:

· Personal Injury – 6 months from time of incident;

· Damage to Personal Property – 6 months from time of incident;

· Wrongful Death – 6 months from time of incident;

· Breach of Contract – 1 year from time of incident;

· Damage to Real Property – 1 year from time of incident;

· Equitable Estoppel – 1 year from time of incident.

What are examples of claims that may require a government claim?

· Auto accident with government/public entity vehicle;

· Auto accident involving government/public entity employee;

· Other negligence claims against government/public entity employees;

· Cases involving breach of mandatory duties of government/public entities and employees;

· Injuries (such as slip and fall accidents) on government/public entity property;

· Dangerous conditions of government/public entity properties;

· Dangerous roadways/intersections;

· Bus/Train/Public Transportation accidents;

· Injuries at schools;

· Sexual assault at schools;

· Medical negligence;

· Burn injuries;

· Injuries caused by things maintained by the government;

· Breach of contract;

· Intentional torts like assault or battery committed by a government/public entity employee.


What are some types of cases typically not permitted under California Tort Claims Act against government/public entities in California?

· Injuries caused by failure to pass a law;

· Injuries caused by California National Guard;

· Injuries caused by failure to enforce laws already in place;

· Injury caused by government failure not to inspect property not owned or controlled by the government/public entity;

· Injuries caused by misrepresentation.


What types of damages can we recover?

As in other types of personal injury cases, when you are the victim of accident that may have been caused by a government/public entity you are entitled to compensation if you follow the correct procedures under the California Tort Claims Act.


All the following are types of compensation which may be available to you with the help of an experienced attorney:

· Medical Bills – You are entitled to compensation for both your past and expected future medical care. Understanding your future medical needs is one of the most important aspects of ensuring that you are fully compensated for your injuries.

· Loss of Earnings – You are entitled to compensation for time you have missed from work and for time you will miss from work in the future. Additionally, you are entitled to compensated for your loss of earning potential in the future if any of your injuries may inhibit you from advancing in your profession.

· Pain, Suffering and Emotional Distress – You are entitled to be compensated for the physical pain, suffering, humiliation, inconvenience, anxiety, disfigurement and emotional distress caused by the collision.

· Property Damage - You are entitle to be compensated for the damage to your vehicle.

However in cases against public entities, punitive damages (damages meant to punish the defendant) are usually not allowed.

Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) – Claims Against Federal Government

If your case is against a federal government entity, agency, department or employee, a different set of rules may apply. The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) prescribes a procedure for the handling of claims against the United States for money damages. Similar to state claims, typically a government claim is required before filing a lawsuit under the FTCA.  Usually, FTCA claims must be filed within two years. However, there are often situations where one might believe the federal government is the proper defendant, but actually a state or local entity may also be involved. Thus you should reach out to an attorney familiar with both CTCA and FTCA claims as quickly as possible to investigate if you believe you, or someone you know, might have a claim.


If you or someone you know has been injured and you believe a government/public entity may be at fault our attorneys can help. At Coughlan and Vinel our attorneys have years of experience handling these types of claims. Due to the timing and administrative requirements under the CTCA, do not hesitate to reach out for representation from an experienced government claims attorney such as Coughlan & Vinel.

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