After an incident or accident, you may have to file a lawsuit in order to recover for your injuries. In most cases when bringing a personal injury claim against a private corporation or individual, a potential plaintiff must be aware of the relevant statute of limitations. When a governmental employee or agency is named as a defendant in a personal injury claim, the rules are slightly different.
Historically, the government has had sovereign immunity, which shielded governmental bodies and governmental employees from being sued in their own courts. However, both the federal government and the District of Columbia have waived sovereign immunity in personal injury cases. There are still differences in filing claims against the government, especially involving the timing and procedures of filing a claim.
First, there is usually a time limit during which you must notify the government that you may be filing a claim against an employee, agency or other governmental entity. In personal injury cases, there is usually a statute of limitations in which a plaintiff is able to file the lawsuit, but when lawsuits involve the government, the notification timeline is much shorter. For example, most personal injury cases in Washington D.C. have a 3-year statute of limitations. However, the District of Columbia has to be notified of a claim within 6-months after the accident or incident.
Second, there are specific procedures to follow when filing a claim against the government. If the procedures are not followed, the government may deny the claim, and the plaintiff may be left without a chance to recover for their damages. The procedural requirements may also depend on the branch of government, and whether the claim is aimed at the local, state or federal government.
Federal Government Claims
When filing a claim against the federal government of the United States, the injured party must file an administrative claim with the federal agency responsible, within a two-year time period. The federal agency then has 6 months to respond to the claim, and make a determination. If the agency rejects the claim, the injured party then has six months from that date to file a lawsuit in federal court. If you were injured and a federal employee or agency was responsible, you should contact your D.C. personal injury attorney to make sure the claim is filed in time, and addressed to the right agency. Your attorney can then fight to make sure you get compensated for your injuries.
District of Columbia Claims
“An action may not be maintained against the District of Columbia for unliquidated damages to person or property unless, within six months after the injury or damage was sustained, the claimant, his agent, or attorney has given notice in writing to the Mayor of the District of Columbia of the approximate time, place, cause, and circumstances of the injury or damage. A report in writing by the Metropolitan Police Department in the regular course of duty is a sufficient notice under this section.” District of Columbia Official Code, Section 12-309.
Under this D.C. notice requirement, a police report may be sufficient to constitute notice of a claim against the District of Columbia. However, if there is any question whether the government's notice requirement has been met, you should speak with your personal injury attorney as soon as possible to make sure you have preserved your claim for damages.
If there was no Metro police report, then the plaintiff has to provide notice of a potential claim to the District of Columbia within 6 months of the injury or accident. The Office of Risk Management has the authority to accept Notice of Claim letters. A Notice of Claim letter has to be received with the 6-month time limit, and must contain certain information to be sufficient notice. If the letter is received late, or does not contain the required information, the claim will be denied.
The Notice of Claim letter must include the following information:
- The identity of the claimant (including address, phone numbers, date of birth and Social Security Number);
- The date and time of the accident or incident that gave rise to the injury;
- The location of the incident or accident;
- What caused the damage or injury; and
- The circumstances of the damage or injury. Specifically, this should include an explanation of how the government may be liable for the injury.
After filing a Notice of Claim, the Office of Risk Management should send an acknowledgement letter, including the claim number and investigator assigned to the claim. Even if you have a valid claim, the government may deny your claim and deny liability for your injury or damages. This is one reason why you may want to contact your personal injury attorney immediately after an injury or accident. Your attorney will aggressively pursue your case, make sure all responsible parties are held accountable, and help you recover damages for your injuries.
Your D.C. Personal Injury Attorneys
Filing a lawsuit can be complicated when the government is involved as a party in a D.C. personal injury case. There may be different deadlines, filing requirements, and legal standards when the government is involved. This is why it is important for your personal injury attorney to be experienced in handling cases against government parties, to make sure you can recover for your injuries. Contact a the law firm of Gilman & Bedigian today for a free consultation. We will make sure all relevant parties are named and served, to ensure you get the compensation you deserve.