If you were in an accident or suffered an injury -- anything from a slip and fall to a car crash -- and a government entity or a government employee is at fault (even just partially), you'll need to follow special rules in bringing a claim for injuries.
The sample claim below is for an accident Martin Johnson had when he tripped in a hole in the public parking lot of the county medical building where he was going for a medical appointment. He sprained his left wrist and right knee in the fall, and also jammed his back. His medical bills, at the time of filing the claim, were $680. He missed two weeks of work for which his pay was $1,450.
Where to File the Claim
The clerk’s office of the government agency or entity you believe was responsible for your accident is the first place to contact about filing your claim. For example, if you have a claim to file against the county, check with the county clerk’s office. It might accept claims directly, or direct you to another agency, such as the county attorney or controller’s office. If your claim is against the state, call the state board of claims, board of control, or state attorney general’s office to find out where to file. After you talk to someone, send them a confirming letter repeating what they told you about where and how to file. Keep a copy for your records.
If you are not sure whether your claim is against the city, the county, or some state agency, file a separate claim against each of them. In most states, it does not cost anything to file a claim against the government, and filing in each place will protect you against failing to file against the correct entity before the time limit runs out. If it turns out later that one or another government entity was not responsible, you can simply ignore or drop your claim against it.
Double-check the date. When you take or send your claim for filing, make an extra copy and ask the clerk to mark on your copy the date on which the office received it. If you mail in your claim, include at least one extra copy and a return envelope with a request that they send you back a copy stamped with the date it was filed. If you have not received a dated copy near the end of the time limit, go to the office in person to file your claim, making sure your copy is marked “received” or “filed,” and that it includes the date.
Getting More Information and Legal Help
For more tips on filing every kind of injury claim -- including claims against the government -- and everything you’ll need to navigate your case, get How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim by Joseph L. Matthews (Nolo). And you may want to consider talking with a personal injury attorney to make sure that all your legal bases are covered and your rights are protected.