Under the California Torts Claim Act (CTCA), if an incident occurs with a defendant who is a governmental entity, state government, city, or other public entity, a proper notice of the claim must be filed within 6 months of the injury or accident. California Government Code section 905. This is known as an “administrative claim.” This claim form must be filed first before you can file a Complaint in court.
It is imperative that if an accident occurs with one of your employees, that you review the facts to determine if the defendant (negligent third party) was working in the course and scope of their employment with a governmental entity. This would be applicable in a car accident where a city employee is driving a city vehicle. In a premise liability case, it would be more obvious in that the dangerous condition is the basis for the accident such as an uneven sidewalk causing a person to trip and fall.
In order to determine what you must file to preserve your rights under the California Torts Claims Act, it is recommended that you go to that particular municipality’s website to determine if there is a claim form that you can complete online. Your claim form must state the basis of your claim against the governmental entity, the amount in controversy, and why you think the governmental entity is responsible. It was very important that this claim form be filed within 6 months of the accident or your rights will be forever barred.
Completing the claim form is the first step in protecting your subrogation rights. After the claim form is submitted, you should receive a response in writing, indicating whether your claim has been accepted or denied, within 45 days. If your claim was denied, you must file a complaint within 6 months of the rejection notice. The second step is filing a Complaint at the appropriate Superior Court within 6 months of the rejection notice. It will state on the notice very clearly the time period in which you must file the Complaint. However, keep in mind that if you do not receive a rejection notice, the government code deems the lack of response as a denial and the next step is to file the Complaint.
Technically speaking, if no response is received after filing the claim form with the government entity, the statute of limitations for filing a Compliant reverts to two years from the date of loss. However, it is a best practice to still comply with the 6-month rule for filing the Complaint.
Common examples of governmental claims act cases involving personal injury or property damage are:
1. The negligent acts of its employees in causing a motor vehicle accident;
2. Premises liability for dangerous conditions on governmental property;
3. Damages caused by the public entity’s failure to carry out a duty imposed by law.
The claim form that you submit must contain the following information (1) the name and address of the claimant, (2) the date, place, and circumstances of the occurrence which gave rise to the claim, (3) a general description of the injury and damages to date, (4) the names of the public employee or employees that caused the damage, and (5) the amount in controversy.
Failing to comply with the California Tort Claims Act will result in a complete bar of your subrogation claim against the public entity and its employees. In other words, you will not be able to obtain reimbursement of your workers’ compensation expenditures if the above process and procedures are not followed.
This is a common area where mistakes are made. If you have any questions regarding the California Tort Claims Act or subrogation in general, please feel free to contact the Subrogation Division of Michael Sullivan & Associates for assistance.