If you have been financially or physically injured by a public entity, such as a transit authority, begin the process of litigation by contacting an attorney. If this has happened to you you may be wondering how you can sue a public entity. The Law Office of Johann Hall can help you determine whether you have a right to receive damages and the possible amount of your damages.

California is a pure comparative fault state. An injured party can recover even if he or she is 99 percent at fault. The injured party’s recovery is reduced by his or her degree of fault. For example, if you were 20% at fault for an accident, you would receive 80% of the damages you suffered.

Next, file a claim with the agency you believe to be responsible.[i] Filing a claim is a mandatory precursor to filing a civil lawsuit.[ii] This law is stated in California Government Code (CGC) § 911.30, which is part of the California Tort Claims Act. Obtain the form directly from the agency.

At times, you may contact an agency and its staff will refuse to answer questions about whether it is part of a city or county. An attorney can help you with such inquiries. There are agencies such as rural fire protection districts that appear to be part of a city or county but operate independently. When in doubt, submit claims to all agencies you think are responsible.

Remember, in order to successfully sue a public entity, you should have your attorney review the claim form to make sure you do not have any errors or omissions. If you do not have the required information because another public entity failed to provide it to you, state this in a neutral way.

For a claim of personal property damage or personal injury, including wrongful death, you must file the claim within six months of the date of the damage, injury, or death. For a claim of breach of contract or damage to real property, you must file the claim within one year. If the entity rejects the claim, you must file a civil suit within six months of receipt of the rejection letter.[iii]

The statute of limitations for a civil lawsuit differs depending on the type of suit and facts surrounding you and the case. For example, if you lived outside California for a period after your date of injury, you may have longer to file the suit. Generally, for a personal injury lawsuit, you have two years from the date of the injury or the date of discovery of the injury. For an oral contract, you have two years from the date the contract is broken. For a written contract, you have four years from the date the contract is broken.

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FAQs about Suing Public Entities

1. How can I sue a public entity if I’ve been injured?

If you’ve suffered financial or physical injury due to a public entity, like a transit authority, start by consulting an attorney. They can assess your case and help determine if you’re eligible for damages and the potential amount you could receive.

2. What is the comparative fault rule in California?

California follows a pure comparative fault rule, meaning you can still recover damages even if you’re mostly at fault. However, your recovery amount is reduced by the percentage of fault assigned to you. For instance, if you’re 20% at fault, you’d receive 80% of the damages.

3. What’s the first step in suing a public entity?

Before filing a civil lawsuit, you must file a claim with the responsible agency. This is mandatory and governed by California Tort Claims Act. Obtain the claim form directly from the agency you believe to be responsible.

4. What if I’m unsure which agency is responsible?

Sometimes, agencies may operate independently, making it challenging to determine responsibility. In such cases, it’s wise to submit claims to all potentially responsible agencies. An attorney can assist in navigating such inquiries.

5. How crucial is it to review the claim form before filing?

It’s essential to have your attorney review the claim form to ensure accuracy and completeness. Any errors or omissions could potentially jeopardize your case. If information is missing due to another public entity’s failure, mention it neutrally.

6. What are the deadlines for filing a claim?

For personal injury or property damage claims, you must file within six months of the incident. For breach of contract or real property damage, the deadline is one year. If the claim is rejected, you have six months from receipt of the rejection letter to file a civil suit.
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7. How does the statute of limitations affect filing a civil lawsuit?

The statute of limitations varies depending on the type of lawsuit and individual circumstances. Generally, for personal injury, you have two years from the date of injury. For contracts, it’s two years for oral contracts and four years for written contracts.

8. Are there exceptions to the statute of limitations?

Yes, exceptions exist, such as extended timelines if you lived outside California post-injury. It’s essential to understand the specific limitations relevant to your case, which your attorney can help clarify.

9. What if I have questions or need guidance?

Consider seeking a free consultation with legal experts like the Law Office of Johann Hall. They can provide personalized advice and guidance tailored to your situation.

10. How can I ensure I take the right legal steps after being injured by a public entity?

By consulting with experienced attorneys and understanding the legal process, you can navigate the complexities of suing public entities effectively. This ensures your rights are protected and increases the likelihood of a successful outcome.