Written By Christopher Dolan and Cristina Garcia
This week’s question comes from Julia L. in Pacific Heights, CA, who asks: I am a frequent city bus rider who rides to work every day. While on the bus last week, I felt a sudden acceleration through the intersection followed by a strong impact on the right side of the bus, where I sat. The crash surprised me because I was reading an email at the time of the collision. When I looked up, the traffic light facing the bus was red, and there was a truck smashed into the side of the bus. At first, I was okay, then felt an unbearable pain in my right arm. The paramedics informed me that I had a broken arm and needed immediate medical attention. I had surgery and stayed overnight at the hospital. I have significant medical bills and missed several days of work due to the accident. Although the police report is not ready, based on the statements I heard from eyewitnesses, it appears that the city bus ran the red light. I have heard special rules apply when pursuing a personal injury claim against government entities, such as a city bus. However, I am not sure what are my next steps. How do I file my claim against a government entity?
This is a great question. Many people are unfamiliar with the unique requirements an injured person must comply with before filing a lawsuit against a government entity. Generally, the statute of limitations (the period when a lawsuit can be filed) is two years from the date of the accident or injury in California. However, special rules apply when a government entity is responsible for the injury. When pursuing a personal injury claim against a government entity, in your case the City or County, you must first file a special claim often referred to as an “administrative claim” with the government office or agency before you file in court.
It is important to note that there is a limited time in which you can bring an administrative claim against a government entity. Under California Government Code Section 910, you must file a claim against the government entity within six (6) months after the event or occurrence. It must be filed with the appropriate government office or agency. Please note that you must use the claim form of the particular government agency when filing a claim, as section 910 prescribes a list of the required information you must provide in your claim. Otherwise, the claim may be deemed invalid.
After filing your administrative claim, the government entity has 45 days to accept or reject the claim. If the government rejects all or part of the claim or does not respond within 45 days, the injured person can file a lawsuit in court. If the government entity rejects the administrative claim, the injured person only has six months from the date of the rejection letter to file a lawsuit.
If you are successful in your claim against the government, you can seek financial compensation for your injuries, including medical bills, loss of income, property damage, and pain and suffering. However, the statute of limitations for government claims can be complicated. Therefore, we highly encourage you to seek legal representation to ensure that you comply with all the requirements as prescribed in Government Code Section 910.