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What Is the Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Claims Against the State of California or Local Government?

The California legislature, more than thirty years ago, approved legislation that was designed to provide governmental entities with notice of a lawsuit so they could properly investigate claims against it. While I am sure the original intent of the legislature was to provide government with the opportunity to investigate and pay claims promptly, in reality the claim process is nothing more than an unnecessary and unfair limitation on personal injury claims.

California statutes require any claim be filed against a State or local government agency be brought within six months of the date of the accident, or within six months after you knew or should have known that you had a claim against these entities. A claim is different than a complaint; it is an informal procedure filed with the department or agency accused of the wrongdoing.

If you fail to bring a claim within the six-month time frame prescribed by statute you are precluded from bringing a complaint against that governmental entity. However, there are several exceptions. You may appeal to a court for permission to file a late claim. However, this is highly specialized and you will require a California personal injury attorney to help you through that process. A significant number of applications for late claims are denied. Another reason for filing a late claim can arise if you were unable to understand the nature of the claim you had. Also, if you were unsure of the entity that caused your injury and could not have found out without reasonable inquiry, you may be granted relief from the six-month filing statute.

It is prudent to file your claim early and immediately if you wish to pursue the action. Thereafter, the governmental agency must respond to your claim. As a practical matter, any claims that impose significant personal injury damages will be denied outright with little fanfare. The filing of a claim acts as a technical defense to meritorious large cases while resolving the small cases that are of little consequence to the government.

In light of the two-year statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim against other individuals, the government claims process should be loosened so as not to deprive individuals of their right to claim damages as against these entities for their wrongdoings.

by James E. Ballidis

James Ballidis is the managing attorney for Allen, Flatt, Ballidis & Leslie and has been practicing personal injury law for 25 years.

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