There are strict procedures for filing an injury claim against the government, including short claim filing deadlines. And even if you comply with all the filing requirements, there's no guarantee that you'll get compensation -- the government may deny your injury claim. If that happens, what are your options?
Initial Steps for Injury Claims Against the Government
There are procedures that must be followed when you have an injury claim against the government. These procedures vary from state to state.
First, after you are injured, you need to determine whether a government employee or government body caused your injury. If the injury was caused by the government, most states have a short time period in which you can bring an injury claim. This time period may range from 30 days to 4 years.
The government must be given notice of your injury claim. This usually involves providing the government with a document called a “Notice of Claim.” After you provide a Notice of Claim, the government is given a period of time to investigate the claim and provide a response. This period of time is typically between 60 and 120 days. After this period expires, you can file a personal injury lawsuit against the government in court, if you don't receive compensation for your injury.
Options After Government’s Denial of your Injury Claim
During the Notice of Claim period, the government may have denied any liability for your injuries or may have simply not responded to your claim at all. At this point, you basically have three options: drop your claim, try to settle, or file a lawsuit.
Drop Your Claim. Not all injury claims should be pursued in court. Litigating a personal injury case, especially against the government, can be very expensive. If your injuries are not serious or your medical bills are minimal, it may be best to not file a lawsuit in court against the government.
Settle the Case Before Filing a Lawsuit. The government may deny your injury claim in writing. If you receive a denial of your claim before the Notice of Claim period expires, you can attempt to contact the government agency and remedy any deficiencies in your claim. It may be helpful to contact the government body’s attorney or other legal representative and determine the exact reasons for your injury claim denial. If you can remedy any mistakes, you may be able to settle your case.
However, settlement after denial of your injury claim is unlikely and your best shot at compensation is to file a lawsuit in court.
File a Personal Injury Lawsuit Against the Government. When you are ready to file a lawsuit against the government, you will need to draft a legal document called a Complaint. In the Complaint, you will name each government employee and government body as defendants. For example, if a city police officer assaulted you, you would sue the individual police officer and the city. The Complaint is filed with the appropriate court. There is typically a filing fee ranging between $300 and $600 depending on numerous factors and court-specific rules.
After the Complaint is filed, you will engage in discovery with the government defendants. Discovery is the process of requesting and exchanging information between the parties to a lawsuit. It can take a significant amount of time and expense.
The government obviously has many resources and money at its disposal. The government attorneys will likely request extensive information from you, and the court can require you to comply.
For example, the government may schedule your deposition and require you to give testimony outside of court. These depositions can last for a full day or more in some circumstances. However, you can utilize the same discovery techniques as the government.
After discovery is completed, your case will be set for trial. At a trial, you can call witnesses to prove that the government is liable for your injuries. Unlike a criminal case, you will probably testify at the trial. This can be very stressful, but good preparation can help. Depending on the court and your preference, your case may be tried by a jury or solely by a judge.
As stated above, litigating a case against the government to trial will be very expensive and time-consuming. There is a possibility that you will settle the case before trial. Remember, after your file your lawsuit, the government is essentially treated like an ordinary person in a personal injury lawsuits.