People associate Los Angeles with glamour and movie stars. If you've been hurt on city property, you know that there's nothing glamorous about a trip to the Emergency Room. George Clooney and Anthony Edwards won't be taking your vital signs. Aside from that major disappointment, you'll be especially bummed if you later find out that you can't financially recover after an accident because you didn't follow city and state rules for submitting a claim. This article will help you avoid the drama, and get on the right path toward compensation for your injuries.
Not a Typical Personal Injury Case
The first thing to know is that injuries on L.A. city property are not always typical personal injury cases. These cases are covered by the California Tort Claims Act, beginning with Section 810 of the Government Code. The injured party, or plaintiff, usually has to go through a distinct process for receiving compensation for injuries. Furthermore, the window of opportunity closes a lot sooner.
Secondly, not all injuries on government property are treated the same. If, for example, you suffer injuries while in a police or correctional facility, there are separate state laws that cover a public entity's liability. At the same time, if injuries are due to a violation of federal law, such as in a police brutality case, the state's limits on liability do not apply at all. It may be a really good idea to consult with a lawyer to find out which set of laws apply.
The first step with an injury is always to seek medical treatment. Document doctor visits by keeping copies of the doctors' notes and prescriptions, and also by keeping receipts. After that, it gets a little tricky.
Presenting a Claim
In order to present a claim for an injury on government property, you must include the required information and send it to the City Clerk within six months of the injury. The City of Los Angeles makes it easy by providing an online Claim for Damages form. As long as you complete the form and follow its directions, you will have correctly presented the claim.
45 Day Response Period
After you submit a claim, the government has 45 days to either accept the claim, reject the claim, or do nothing (which is treated as a rejection). If the City of L.A. rejects any part of your claim, it will provide notice of the rejection. At that point, you have another six months from the date of the notice to file a court action. The notice will also advise you to consult with a lawyer before you proceed.
The rules for submitting a claim can be especially tricky, and if you do not comply, you could forfeit your claim. For example, a group may not present a single claim within that first six months; each party must present his/her own. So, if you and your children are injured on city property, but you only submit one form for the family, you will not be able to pursue each claim. The bottom line is, it's complicated!
Mounting a Case
Generally, a public entity is only liable for injuries on its premises if the plaintiff can prove four elements, three of which are the same in every case:
In addition, a plaintiff must show that either: (a) an employee of the public entity acted intentionally or negligently in a way that created the dangerous condition; or (b) the public entity knew or should have known about the dangerous condition, and had enough time to take protective measures.
Be sure to write down and communicate all of the details of the incident. This will help you or your lawyer in mounting a successful case.
Contact a qualified attorney.