How to File a Lawsuit under the California Tort Claims Act

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The California Tort Claims Act governs any personal injury lawsuit brought against a government agency or employee of the state. If you were injured in an accident that was caused by the negligence of a public entity, then you can seek compensation for your damages by filing a lawsuit under the California Tort Claims Act.

According to California Law, “a public entity is not liable for an injury” caused by the government agency or any of its employees. This general rule is also known as “sovereign immunity” of the public entity, as stated in sections 810 through 996.6 of the California Government Code.

The sovereign immunity rule has been in existence for centuries in US and UK laws. It was originally designed to prevent people from trying to sue the king even if the actions of the king directly caused damage to them. Today, the rule is adopted by the US states to limit their liability. However, they have also offered a few ways, like the California Tort Claims Act, through which an injured person can become eligible to seek compensation for their damages caused by a government entity or employee. An experienced California personal injury lawyer can help you effectively argue your claim.

Limitations and Exceptions of the California Tort Claims Act

You can file a lawsuit under the California Tort Claims Act for all kinds of civil liability claims, such as the ones caused by the negligence of a public entity or employee. Additionally, you can also seek compensation for intentional wrongs, nuisance, and breach of contract under the California Tort Claims Act. Yet the government agency will be held liable to compensate for your damages only if the negligent person was performing an action or duty in the scope of their employment when the accident or injury was caused.

According to the California Tort Claims Act, you are required to file a claim with the public entity that employed the negligent person. However, you cannot sue the negligent person directly to seek compensation for your damages. Likewise, if an independent contractor caused the injury or damage, then you need to file a lawsuit with the government agency that hired them and not the negligent contractor directly.

Filing a Claim under the California Tort Claims Act

If the damages you sustained were caused by a negligent state employee, then you will need to file a claim with the Office of Risk and Insurance Management of the California Department of General Services. You can check their website to understand the claim filing process. This way, you can also check which claims are required to be filed directly with a state agency, and which should be sent to a specific mailing address, such as when filing a claim against the California Department of Transportation or the California State University system.

If you are filing a claim against a county or city in California state, then see if they have any online claim portal or form that can be used to streamline the process. For instance, you can find claim assistance on the websites of the City of Los Angeles, the City of San Jose, and the City of San Diego. If there is no online claim portal or form, then you will need to create your own notice of claim with the help of a California injury lawyer.

Generally, you will need to include the following in your “notice of claim” letter.

  • Your name and mailing address
  • The mailing address to which you want to direct all the notices about the claim
  • The date and location of the incident as well as a description of how the accident happened and what injuries you sustained
  • A brief description of the damages, injuries, or other losses, such as medical expenses, property damages, loss of income, etc.
  • Name of the negligent government employee or independent contractor that caused the damages (if known)

You will also need to include the amount claimed in the letter if it is below $10,000 and add a description to explain how the compensation amount was calculated. If the amount claimed is more than $10,000, then you will need to mention in the letter if any resulting lawsuit will be a limited civil case for jurisdiction purposes. You can seek compensation up to $25,000 in a limited civil case, but cannot seek an injunction, a determination of title to real property, or enforcement of a Family Code order.

Note that you should file a claim with the public agency within 6 months of the date of the incident. The government entity will have 45 days to accept or reject your claim. If you do not get any response from the public entity within this period, you can file a lawsuit in court for seeking compensation for your damages under the California Tort Claims Act.

The government agency can also try to negotiate a settlement just as insurance companies do when you file a personal injury claim. Therefore, you should have a reliable California injury lawyer on your side to guide you throughout the process and help you get the maximum compensation amount possible.

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