Traps to Avoid When Suing the Government in California
Know if you are dealing with a Public Entity
In some cases, it's simple to know if you are suing a public entity, e.g. if a city or the State is the responsible party. But transit districts, school districts, and hospital districts are also public entities. Therefore,find out immediately if you are dealing with a public entity or not. Special claims must be filed against public entities before filing a lawsuit. When there is doubt, you can often contact the risk manager for the entity to see if it a public entity subject to the claims filing procedures. You can also check with the State roster of public entities
File a claim within six months of the date of the Injury.
Once it is determined that the responsible party is a public entity you must file a government claim with them within six months of the date of the injury. This is true even if it is a minor's claim. You should file a copy with the proper receiving person and get a copy marked received to prove that you complied with the claims statute. A claim form can often be obtained directly from the public entity. If not see Government Code Section 905 and 910 for the requirements.
File a lawsuit within six months of the rejection.
The public entity has 45 days to accept or reject the claim. You should file your lawsuit within six months of the rejection of the claim. If this is not done, your claim will be barred by law.
Government claims are very tricky. This guide is just a brief overview of a value complicated area of law, filled with traps for the unwary. It is important that all facts supporting all legal theories be included. Otherwise, the court may bar you from later raising that claim. Additionally, there may be ways to obtain relief from the claims statute if it was not filed precisely. For these reasons, it is almost always appropriate to seek a lawyer's help in filing claims against public entities.
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