According to the California Tort Claims Act (California Government Code sections 810 through 996.6), a public entity is not liable for an injury caused by the public entity or any of its employees. This general rule is also known as the rule of sovereign immunity. Though, the law also has certain limited exceptions that allow the State of California to face liability.
What Claims Are Covered Under the California Tort Claims Act?
The CTCA covers all civil liability claims for “money or damages”, including.
- Medical negligence
- Car accidents
- Burn injuries
- Slip and fall accidents
- Bus accidents
- Breach of contract
- Intentional wrongs
A government agency or entity is legally responsible for the negligent acts of its employees, in case they were acting in the scope of their employment and/or they were performing government function at the time of the accident happened. Under the California Tort Claims Act, the claimant has to file a claim with the entity or agency which employs the negligent employee. According to CTCA, it is not permitted to file claims directly against the negligent person.
In California, public entities can also be responsible for injuries caused by the negligence of their independent contractors.
Filing a Claim Under the California Tort Claims Act
The following information must be included in the claim:
- Claimant’s name and mailing address
- Location, date, and description of the accident
- Description of the injury, loss, and damage
- The name of the responsible government employee (if known)
- The amount claimed and the basis of calculation in case the claim is under $10,000. If the total amount is more than $10,000, no amount is to be included, but the claim must show if it would be a limited civil case ($20,000 or less)
Possible Responses of a Public Agency
Generally, a public agency has 45 days to take action after the claim is presented. The agency has 5 following options to respond to a claim:
- Take no action
In case the public entity fails to take an action on a claim within 45 days or as extended by agreement, the claim is deemed automatically rejected by law. In case no action is taken, or no notice of action is sent to the claimant, then he has two years to file a lawsuit
- Approve the claim
The public entity can approve the claim either in whole or in part. In this case, the entity offers to compromise the claim and can require that acceptance by the claimant results in full settlement of the claim.
- Reject the claim
In case the entity rejects the claim, the notice must be sent to the claimant. In case the claim is rejected, but no notice is sent, then the claimant has two years to file a lawsuit.
- Provide the notice of insufficiency
In case the claim doesn’t contain needed information, the public agency within 20 days after the claim is presented gives the notice of the insufficiency, indicating what information is missing.
- Provide the notice of untimely claim
In case the claim is not presented within the time allowed, the public entity within 45 days after the claim is presented can return the claim without any further action.
Statute of Limitations for Filing a Tort Claim in California
According to California Government Code Section 911.2. claims concerning personal injury, damage to personal property, wrongful death, or damage to crops must be presented within six months of the “accrual of the claim”.