When you or a loved one has been injured and the party at fault is the government, there are two important things to be aware of. First, it is crucial that you do not wait to file a claim against the government because you may lose your right to sue if you do. Second, the procedure for pursuing a claim is different from pursuing a claim against a private person or private company. There are administrative steps you must take before you can even file a lawsuit, typically this will involve giving the government entity responsible for your injuries notice that you have a claim. The deadline to give notice is usually much shorter than the statute of limitations for the claim. If you miss the deadline and fail to file an administrative claim on time, you can be barred from recovering any compensation for your injuries.
Generally, both the state and federal government have sovereign immunity. Sovereign immunity can be defined as "[a] government's immunity from being sued in its own courts without its consent." Black's Law Dictionary, 819 (9th ed. 2009). However, both the federal government and the government of the State of Maryland have waived sovereign immunity in personal injury cases. Congress passed the Federal Tort Claims Act which permits lawsuits by private citizens for any injuries they sustain from a government employee. Likewise, Maryland passed the Maryland Tort Claims Act which allows lawsuits to be filed against the State. Local governments, like cities and counties, have also waived immunity under what is known as the Local Tort Claims Notice Acts.
Filing A Claim
The first step in filing any claim against a government agency is to provide that agency with notice that you are seeking compensation for injuries you have sustained. Below are the different procedural requirements when bringing a claim against the federal, state, or local government.
- Federal: The federal government requires that you first file an administrative claim with the federal agency at fault for your injury within 2 years of the injury. If the agency then denies your claim, you have six months from the date of mailing of the denial to file a lawsuit.
- Maryland: If an employee of the State of Maryland is responsible for your injuries, you must give the State notice of a claim within one year (365 days) of the incident. Once you have given notice you must bring a lawsuit within the statute of limitations applicable to your cause of action.
- Local: Local government agencies also have administrative requirements that must be met before a lawsuit can be filed. For example, if you have been injured by an employee of the City of Baltimore you have a certain period of time within which you must file the proper notice. If you are giving notice of a claim for an injury that occurred prior to October 1, 2015 you must provide notice within 180 days. If you are giving notice for a claim after October 1, 2015 then you have 1 year (365 days) to do so.
When bringing a claim against the federal government of the United States you must first file an administrative claim with the federal agency at fault within 2 years. The agency then has 6 months to investigate your claim and determine if they believe it has merit. If the agency decides the claim has merit, that agency will provide compensation. If the agency rejects your claim, you have six months from that date to file a lawsuit in federal court.
Claims Against The State Of Maryland
The notice requirement for the State of Maryland is one year from the time of injury actually occurs. When suing Maryland, you must first file a claim with the Maryland State Treasurer who will then investigate the claim. If your claims is rejected or six months has passed without a response, you may file suit against the state, but it must be filed within the applicable statute of limitations for your injury.
Local governments have their own requirements that you must follow when you are seeking to file a lawsuit. For example, if you have been injured by a Baltimore City employee you must file your claim within a particular period of time. Prior to October 1, 2015 you must file notice within 180 days, either in person or by certified mail and you must use the claims form provided on the city website. If you are giving notice for a claim after October 1, 2015 then you have 1 year (365 days) to do so.