Pay Close Attention to Claims against Public or Government Entities
Each state has its own set of statute of limitations, which set forth the maximum time frame allowed, after an event occurs (such as an accident), for an injured party to start legal action, such as a lawsuit. Statute of limitations differs for bodily injury claims, property damage claims, breach of contract claims, medical malpractice claims, and claims related to fraud and misrepresentation. This article strictly discusses claims against public and government entities.
In California, the statute of limitations for bodily injury claims is generally two (2) years from the date of the injury causing event. However, there are exceptions to this rule and the statute of limitations is different when it comes to minors (who have been injured) or incapacitated individuals (who have been injured). Another exception is claims against public and government entities.
If you have a personal (bodily) injury claim or a wrongful death claim against a public or government entity, you have six (6) months from the date of the injury causing event to serve a written claim with the public or government entity. The service of the written claim is generally mandatory and the six (6) months statute is generally binding and enforceable. Again, there are some exceptions.
If you fail to serve the public or government entity with a written claim within six (6) months, you can seek permission from the public or government entity to serve a late written claim. However, your petition, seeking permission to serve a late claim, must be served within one (1) year from the date of the injury causing event. Additionally, you must show that you failed to serve a timely claim because of mistake, inadvertence, surprise, or excusable neglect. Other grounds for seeking relief include minority, physical or mental incapacity, or death. The public or government entity can then give you permission to serve your late claim or reject your request. If the public or government entity rejects your request, you must then petition the court for relief. The court may grant relief unless it finds that the public or government entity will be prejudiced.
After the public or government entity is served with your written claim, it has forty-five (45) days to either accept or reject your claim. Written claims are usually rejected by public or government entities. Once rejected, then the injured party must start legal proceedings, such a filing a lawsuit or seek arbitration, within six (6) months from the date of rejection.
Remember that a claim against an employee of a public or government entity may also fall under the notice requirement if the employee was under the course and scope of his employment. For example, a bus driver employed by a particular city or municipality would fall under this category if the driver causes an accident during the course and scope of his/her employment and you wish to assert a claim against his/her employer. However, same bus driver may not fall under the notice requirement if he/she was driving his/her private automobile at the time of the accident. Additionally, claims against public schools fall under the notice requirement.
Needless to say, it is important that you contact an attorney immediately if you have a claim against a public or government entity, even if your claim may be late. Also, remember that if you have a claim against a private entity, who would not be subject to the above described restrictions. This article strictly talks about California law. If you have a claim against a public or government entity outside of California, or the Federal government, you should immediately contact an attorney to discuss your case because laws may differ. This article is for educational purposes only and is not meant to serve as legal advice. You should always contact an attorney to discuss any legal matter.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mason Rashtian
The Mason Law Firm is managed by Mason Rashtian, an experienced lawyer who has successfully represented clients throughout the State of California, including Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties.
Mr. Rashtian has chosen to help people in the fields of personal injury, to help clients get justice and protect their rights. As such, he is now in a position to help real people with real problems. Before opening his office, Mr. Rashtian worked for prestigious law firms in the Los Angeles and Orange counties.
Mr. Rashtian is an active member of the California Bar, Consumer Attorneys Association of Los Angeles (CAALA), Santa Clarita Valley Bar Association, San Fernando Valley Bar Association, and Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce.
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.