The circumstances of each personal injury case are unique. This is especially true when the defendant is a government entity because there are special rules dictating when and how the government can be named in a civil suit. Most people are unaware of the restrictions on citizens suing the government. This can lead to a missed opportunity for compensation. Below is some information that may be helpful. Ultimately, however, a personal injury attorney familiar with the laws in your area will be your best resource such as the Personal Injury Lawyer Surprise AZ locals trust.
The Government is Subject to a Different Statute of Limitations
Whether it’s a local, state, or federal government entity, seeking compensation in a personal injury case is regulated by a specific set of laws. These guidelines are different than the rule of law that governs lawsuits between citizens and public businesses and there’s very little room for error. For example, one missed deadline may bring an abrupt end to any case.
- All personal injury cases are subject to a statute of limitations, which is the time frame in which a plaintiff can file a lawsuit. Typically, the injured party must bring the claim within six years from the time he or she was involved in the incident that caused the injuries. Depending on the local or state law, that limit may be as short as one year.
- In order to successfully launch a lawsuit against the government, injured parties must act within as little as thirty days to file the initial complaint. Some states allow for a slightly longer period, requiring that complaints be filed within 60 or 90 days. In other areas, injured parties may have as much as 120 days to file with the court.
- Additionally, some states apply different time limits to the different levels of government. One may only have 30 days to file against a state agency, but as much as 120 days to file against a city or county government entity. There are a few states that don’t differentiate at all, applying the same limitation to private citizens, businesses, and government entities equally.
Notifying the Government Entity
When filing a lawsuit against another person or a business, the process begins with a formal complaint filed with the court. However, this is another way in which suing a government entity becomes more complicated, because the first thing to be done is to file a Notice of Claim. If this is not done, or is done improperly according to the rules of the specific jurisdiction, the court will likely dismiss the case altogether.
A Notice of Claim does not go to the court. Instead, it must be submitted to each person and each entity believed responsible for causing the plaintiff’s injuries.
- Very often, the law requires that these documents be sent by certified mail. In some circumstances, all Notice of Claim documents may also have to be mailed to a specific agency tasked with handling these types of complaints.
- What goes into a Notice of Claim varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but all of them require specific information as instructed on that jurisdiction’s Notice of Claim form.
- After the Notice of Claim has been submitted, the injured party is required to wait for a period from 30 to 120 days, before filing the complaint with the court. In the event that the plaintiff doesn’t wait for the specified time, the court will more than likely dismiss the case.
From there, a suit against a government entity more closely resembles other personal injury cases. An experienced attorney can help an injured party navigate these differences more successfully and will help circumvent the pitfalls commonly associated with these types of cases.
A special thank you to our authors at Alex & Saavedra for their insight into Personal Injury Law.