How Long Do You Have To Sue The Government?

How Long Do You Have To Sue The Government?

As a Los Angeles accident lawyer, some of my cases involve government entities in addition to private defendants.

When taking on a new client who was injured by a government employee or on government property, it’s my duty to explain to the client how his or her case differs from a typical case.  The statute of limitations, or timeline a plaintiff has to file his or her lawsuit, is one area where the cases differ significantly.

In a typical personal injury case, one has two years from the date of the accident to sue the party responsible for causing his injuries.  Medical negligence (aka “malpractice”) has a one year statute of limitations.

Government claims are different.  Government Code Section 911.2 states that an individual has six months to file a claim with the entity responsible for his/her injuries.  Every governmental entity in California provides special forms on which a plaintiff must first submit his or her claim directly to that entity, before filing suit in court.

This procedural requirement is intended to notify the government of impending legal action, and to provide it with an opportunity to either settle the case early, or to marshal taxpayer resources efficiently to litigate it.

While it sounds nice, it hardly turns out that way in practice.  Most government claims are denied as a matter of course, or they get lost in the bureaucratic shuffle and are outright ignored by the governmental entity.  So what happens next?

The entity will have 45 days to respond to the plaintiff’s government claim.  If it doesn’t, or if it ignores the claim, it’s deemed denied.  Then, and only then, can the plaintiff file suit in court.

The plaintiff will have up to one year from the time of the injury to file suit; after that date, the case cannot be filed without special court permission.

This means that effectively, plaintiffs injured by the government only have one year to file suit, instead of the usual two.

These special procedural rules are in place whenever someone suffers personal injuries at the hand of the government.  Whether someone is injured by a government employee driving a city bus; trips on the sidewalk or government property; or is injured by a falling tree that belongs to the city, there is less time available to pursue legal action.

So don’t delay!  If you’re injured on government property or rear-ended by that mean parking-enforcement officer, call the Rabbi Lawyer as soon as possible!