Claims Against the Government — Don’t Make These Fatal Mistakes

Joel Williams

Even the seemingly most straight-forward personal injury claims can be highly complicated. This is especially true when plaintiffs make claims against government entities. If you have been injured due to the negligent conduct of a government agency or government worker, you should know that it may be possible to bring a claim against the government for personal injury damages. However, these claims are difficult to make and should only be made with the assistance of an experienced Georgia personal injury attorney. Two big pitfalls that plaintiffs making claims against the government must be wary of are the doctrine of sovereign immunity and statutory ante litem notice requirements. 

The Sovereign Immunity Doctrine 

The first thing plaintiffs making claims against the government should understand is the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Hundreds of years ago when our system of law was first developing in England, the English kings decided that it would be a good idea if nobody could ever sue them because “the king can do no wrong.” And so the doctrine of sovereign immunity was born, which held that the monarchy was immune from lawsuits. Although the United States is far removed from the days of monarchy, our legal system has retained the doctrine of sovereign immunity, which now holds that the federal and state governments are immune from lawsuits. Despite the outdated rationale for the doctrine, it nonetheless remains firmly entrenched in Georgia law. 

Therefore, to bring a claim against state or local governments, sovereign immunity must be overcome. For personal injury lawsuits, this can be accomplished by making claims through the Georgia Tort Claims Act (O.C.G.A. § 50-21-23). Under this law, the state of Georgia waived immunity for personal injury lawsuits. The law states: 

The state waives its sovereign immunity for the torts of state officers and employees while acting within the scope of their official duties or employment and shall be liable for such torts in the same manner as a private individual or entity would be liable under like circumstances. 

It is important for plaintiffs to understand that municipalities and counties in Georgia are also protected by sovereign immunity. Other laws have waived sovereign immunity for many claims against municipalities and counties. Generally, it is easier to make claims against municipalities than it is to make claims against counties. If you have been injured by a local government or government worker, it is important to consult with a Georgia attorney to understand whether or not sovereign immunity bars your claim. 

Procedural Rules of the Georgia Tort Claims Act 

Plaintiffs making claims against the government must also comply with special procedural rules that govern these types of claims. The biggest procedural misstep that Georgia plaintiffs make when making claims against the government is failing to comply with the ante litem notice requirement of O.C.G.A. § 50-21-26. Under this provision of the Georgia Tort Claims Act, a written notice of claim must be mailed by certified mail to Georgia’s Risk Management Division of the Department of Administrative Services and a copy of this notice must be mailed to the state agency that is being threatened with a lawsuit within 12 months of the date that the cause of action accrued. This notice must contain the following information: 

(A) The name of the state government entity, the acts or omissions of which are asserted as the basis of the claim; 

(B) The time of the transaction or occurrence out of which the loss arose; 

(C) The place of the transaction or occurrence; 

(D) The nature of the loss suffered; 

(E) The amount of the loss claimed; and 

(F) The acts or omissions which caused the loss. 

This notice requirement has been strictly construed by Georgia courts, and a personal injury lawsuit cannot be made under the Georgia Tort Claims Act until this notice has been provided. Additionally, after this notice has been delivered, a lawsuit cannot be filed until the claim has either been denied or 90 days has passed. It is also important to note that claims against municipalities and counties have their own ante litem notice requirement laws that must be complied with. 

If You’ve Been Injured in an Accident, Call Joel Williams Law, LLC, to Discuss Your Case Today 

The experienced personal injury attorneys at Joel Williams Law, LLC, are dedicated to maximizing compensation in every case they take. They understand Georgia substantive and procedural law and know how to effectively make claims against government entities when those entities cause harm. If you would like to discuss your case, contact Joel Williams Law, LLC, to schedule a free case evaluation today by calling (404) 389-1035.