If a private party injures you through their negligent behavior, you can file a lawsuit against them seeking monetary compensation. If an on-duty employee injures you through negligent misconduct, you can usually sue their employer.
However, if the defendant is the LA city government or one of its employees, things get more complicated. Suing the city for negligence involves special considerations.
What is Sovereign Immunity?
Sovereign immunity is based on the ancient legal principle that “The king can do no wrong.” Today, sovereign immunity simply means that you cannot sue a government for monetary damages without its permission. That rule makes sense when you think about it. Since the government gets its money from taxpayers, suing a city for negligence means suing the taxpayers-–potentially including even yourself.
Tort Claims Acts
Fortunately, the government has given its permission for you to file a personal injury lawsuit against it in certain instances. If you wish to sue the federal government, for example, the Federal Tort Claims Act applies.
If you want to sue the city of Los Angeles, however, things work a little differently. California cities and counties are subdivisions of the state government. Accordingly, if you want to sue a California city, you must abide by the terms set by the California Tort Claims Act.
How to Sue the LA City Government
A claim is different from a lawsuit, and the process of suing the LA city government reflects that difference. To sue the LA city government, you must first file a written claim with the city. More specifically, you must file your claim with the Office of the Los Angeles City Clerk. You can visit the office in person, or you can mail in your claim.
By surface mail or walk-in: City Clerk, 200 North Spring Street, Room 395, City Hall, Los Angeles, CA 90012.
You cannot email or fax a claim, and you cannot file a claim by telephone.
The “Claim for Damages” Form
You must file your claim on an official Claim for Damages Form. On this form, you must supply the following information:
- Your name, date of birth, and contact details;
- The identity and address to whom the city should send communications about your claim;
- A statement about how your losses occurred;
- The date, time, and place of the accident;
- An explanation of why you believe the city is responsible for your claim;
- The names of any involved city employees (and their license plate numbers if relevant);
- A list of witnesses, doctors, and hospitals;
- Whether you reported the accident;
- The identity of anyone to whom you reported the accident;
- The name of any city subdivision you believe is responsible for your losses;
- Details about your claim for damages, including a total amount;
- A diagram of the accident, if relevant;
- Your signature, plus your printed name and the date you signed the form.
The city will issue you a claim number, investigate your claim, and either accept or reject your claim. A city official might contact you to ask for relevant documents. If the city accepts your claim, you must sign a Release Agreement and the city will write you a settlement check.
The City Government Statute of Limitations
Regardless of whether you are seeking damages for bodily injury or damage to personal property, you must file your written claim within six months after the claim arose. That means six months after the accident for injury or property damage, or six months after the death of the victim.
Complying with the city government statute of limitations for filing a written claim does not excuse you from also complying with the California statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit. You must comply with both of these deadlines to keep your claim alive.
If the city denies your claim and you wish to file a lawsuit, you have only six months from the date of denial to file a lawsuit, even if the California personal injury statute of limitations deadline has not yet expired.
Find a Los Angeles Lawyer With Experience Filing Government Tort Claims
Don’t try to sue the LA city government alone—that would be like David without a slingshot vs. Goliath. Find a personal injury lawyer. Not just any personal injury lawyer will do, however, because most personal injury lawyers don’t know how to sue a city in California.
As the foregoing discussion should have clarified, this kind of experience is important if you want to win your negligence claim.
Contact Our Personal Injury Law Firm in Los Angeles, CA
If you were injured in an accident in Los Angeles, CA or you lost a loved one and you need legal assistance, please contact us to schedule a free consultation. One of our Los Angeles personal injury lawyers at M&Y Personal Injury Lawyers will get in touch with you soon.