Government premises liability lawsuits occur on a daily basis. These cases imply the federal government is responsible for damages incurred in an accident, usually associated with poorly maintained sidewalks, roadway obstruction, and malfunctioning street signs.
Historically, civic entities enacted protection under what is called “sovereign immunity” from being sued or held responsible for a lawsuit. In 1946, the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) provided a limited waiver of sovereign immunity, and allowed citizens to file certain tort claims against the government. The California Tort Claims Act (CTCA), adapted from the FTCA, legislates how governmental premises liabilities are triable in California courts of law.
The FTCA permits individuals to file claims against governmental entities if property damage or personal injury was caused by the neglect of an employee who was acting in the scope of his or her employment.
The FTCA allows claims for injury, property damage or wrongful death if:
You cannot take legal action against the United States for:
The only exception to any of these actions is the result of a police officer’s negligence — in other words, the police officer was operating outside the scope of his or her stated position. Also, if you are injured by the employee of an outside company that is contracted by the government, you cannot sue the government but will need to take legal action against the company.
TorkLaw handles many types of federal tort claims, but the most common include:
For many years, we have litigated motor vehicle accidents involving government vehicles. We find that the most important action is to and put the government on notice of the claim as soon as possible. Without obtaining the accident report, this can be difficult to do. Our firm can obtain this report and assist with the other essential steps to correctly file your claim against the federal, state, county, or municipal government.
If you wish to sue under the FTCA, you should first file a claim with the federal agency accountable for the alleged misconduct, within two years of the date of injury. For example, if your claim is based on an injury incurred at the post office, you would file your claim with the U.S. Postal Service.
The easiest way to prepare your administrative claim is to use the federal government’s basic claim form, known as SF95. You can download this form on the U.S. General Services Administration website.
Whether you have an attorney or not, you must complete Form SF95, and file it within two years of the dat. Having an attorney will mitigate all chances of common errors, which, in the long run, can save you time, money, and potentially, your claim. The most important sections of Form SF95 are listed below:
In section 9, Property Damage, you must briefly explain the nature and level of damage to property. You will need to submit two property damage quotes with your claim. Use section 10, Personal Injury/Wrongful Death to briefly describe the nature and level of injury or fatality of a person.
In sections 12 a-c, you need to declare a particular amount for each of the following: residential or commercial property damage, injury and/or wrongful death. In section 12d, you will provide a total sum of those amounts. If a sum is not noted in these boxes, then your form is incomplete, and this could cause your claim to be rejected automatically.
The sum certain is the area where people managing their own claims error most frequently. An attorney experienced in filing claims against government entities can help you appropriately complete and file Form SF95. They will also serve notice that their office represents you, so all future correspondence will be sent to their offices, so you do not need to deal with the government directly.
You need to sign Form SF95 on your own in wet ink (vs. an electronic signature). If you fail to sign it, then it is considered insufficient and not filed. PRO TIP: Signing in blue ink makes it crystal clear that you signed the form in pen.
It should also include the precise amount of financial reparations you are claiming, as well as sufficient facts about your case to allow the government to examine the merits of your claim.
When your claim is sent, the federal firm has six months to rule on it. Sometimes, a federal agency may “allow” your claim and consent to pay you the damages required, and you may not need to litigate.
If the federal company declines your claim, or chooses not to pay all the cash damages you demanded, you have six months from the date on which the decision is mailed to you to file a suit. Again, submit your suit as soon as possible after receiving this choice to avoid any opportunity of having your lawsuit dismissed.
To sue a state, county, or municipal government in California, the injured person needs to initially notify the correct office of the claim within six months of the date of injury. A written notification should consist of:
While you can simply compose a letter including this information, most municipalities have forms that simplify the procedure. For example, San Jose, Los Angeles, and San Diego all use a notice of claim downloadable from their websites.
Prior to filing a lawsuit in court, the injured party needs to provide written notification of the claim to the government agency responsible. This notification should be filed within six months of the date of injury. The state government then has the option to accept or decline the claim. If it rejects all or part of the claim, the injured person may file a claim in court. You are not required to follow through with a suit if you offer notice of your claim, even if your claim is turned down, so it is smart to offer notification in order to keep your choices open.
A word of caution: There are legal penalties for fraudulent claims or false statements to either federal, state or municipal entities, consisting of fines up to $10,000 and 5 years in prison.
Believe it or not, one of the easiest parts of any personal injury claim is paying for an attorney. Personal injuries lawyers typically do not charge an upfront fee; rather they work on a contingency basis, and are only paid if you win, based on a percentage of amounts recovered.
The Federal Government restricts attorneys’ fees to 20% of an out-of-court settlement or award. If filing a lawsuit is necessary, then the attorneys’ fees will likely increase. Lawsuits require greater resources than administrative proceedings, which is why the amount is higher.
Filing a claim against the government for injury requires time, attention to detail, knowledge of government premises liability laws, and a great deal of patience. One misstep during the filing procedure could result in a legal denial of all claims. Hiring an attorney who works on contingency can help you manage it all at no financial risk to you.
At TorkLaw, our firm understands this very complicated area of government premises liability claims in detail. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer your questions and schedule a free, no-obligation consultation that will bring more clarity to your situation. You can send us a message online, or give us a call at (888) 845-9696.