Generally, no suit for money or damages may be brought against a government entity (or against a government employee acting in the scope of employment) unless and until a timely claim has been presented pursuant to the Government Claims Act (Gov.C. § 810 et seq.) and either acted upon or deemed rejected by the passage of time [Gov.C. §§ 945.4, 950.2, 912.4]. If a government entity could be a potential defendant, there is a six-month claim filing deadline under the California Government Claims Act.
Gov.C. § 911.2
“(a) A claim relating to a cause of action for death or for injury to person or to personal property or growing crops shall be presented as provided in Article 2 (commencing with Section 915) not later than six months after the accrual of the cause of action. A claim relating to any other cause of action shall be presented as provided in Article 2 (commencing with Section 915) not later than one year after the accrual of the cause of action.”
A claim shall be presented to the state by either delivering it to an office of the Victim Compensations and Government Claims Board, or by mailing it to the same.
Gov.C. § 915
(b) Except as provided in subdivisions (c) and (d), a claim, any amendment thereto, or an application for leave to file a late claim shall be presented to the state by either of the following means:
(1) Delivering it to an office of the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board.
(2) Mailing it to the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board at its principal office.
(e) A claim, amendment or application shall be deemed to have been presented in compliance with this section even though it is not delivered or mailed as provided in this section if, within the time prescribed for presentation thereof, any of the following apply:
(1) It is actually received by the clerk, secretary, auditor or board of the local public entity.
(2) It is actually received at an office of the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board.
(3) If against the California State University, it is actually received by the Trustees of the California State University.
(4) If against a judicial branch entity or judge, it is actually received by the court executive officer, court clerk/administrator, court clerk, or secretariat of the judicial branch entity.”
Where two or more persons suffer separate and distinct injuries from the same act or omission, each person must submit a claim; one cannot rely on a claim presented by another. This is so even where one person’s injuries are “derivative” of the other’s [Nelson v. County of Los Angeles (2003); Shelton v. Super.Ct. (State of Calif.) (1976)].
The claim must be in writing, must be signed by claimant or someone
on his or her behalf, and must show:
- Claimant’s name and post office address;
- The post office address to which claimant desires notices to be sent;
- The date, place and other circumstances of the occurrence giving rise to the claim;
- A general description of the injury incurred “so far as it is known” at the time the claim is presented;
- The names of the public employees allegedly causing the injury (if known); and
- The amount of damages claimed if it totals less than $10,000, including the estimated amount for any prospective injury “insofar as it may be known at the time of the presentation of the claim,” together with the basis for computing such damages. Conversely, if the amount claimed is $10,000 or more, “no dollar amount shall be included in the claim”; but the claim must indicate whether it would be a “limited civil case.”
Gov.C. § 910
“A claim shall be presented by the claimant or by a person acting on his or her behalf and shall show all of the following:
(a) The name and post office address of the claimant.
(b) The post office address to which the person presenting the claim desires notices to be sent.
(c) The date, place and other circumstances of the occurrence or transaction which gave rise to the claim asserted.
(d) A general description of the indebtedness, obligation, injury, damage or loss incurred so far as it may be known at the time of presentation of the claim.
(e) The name or names of the public employee or employees causing the injury, damage, or loss, if known.
(f) The amount claimed if it totals less than ten thousand dollars ($10,000) as of the date of presentation of the claim, including the estimated amount of any prospective injury, damage, or loss, insofar as it may be known at the time of the presentation of the claim, together with the basis of computation of the amount claimed. If the amount claimed exceeds ten thousand dollars ($10,000), no dollar amount shall be included in the claim. However, it shall indicate whether the claim would be a limited civil case.”
Gov.C. § 910.2
“The claim shall be signed by the claimant or by some person on his behalf. Claims against local public entities for supplies, materials, equipment or services need not be signed by the claimant or on his behalf if presented on a billhead or invoice regularly used in the conduct of the business of the claimant.”
If the public entity sends proper written notice of the rejection of the claim, plaintiff has six months thereafter to file suit against the entity.
Gov.C. § 945.6(a)(1)
“(a) Except as provided in Sections 946.4 and 946.6 and subject to subdivision (b), any suit brought against a public entity on a cause of action for which a claim is required to be presented in accordance with Chapter 1 (commencing with Section 900) and Chapter 2 (commencing with Section 910) of Part 3 of this division must be commenced:
(1) If written notice is given in accordance with Section 913, not later than six months after the date such notice is personally delivered or deposited in the mail.”
In pursuing claims against the State, it is advisable to seek help, as soon as possible, from a lawyer who is experienced in personal injury cases to be properly guided and represented when necessary.