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What to Do if One of the Parties Liable to You in Your California Auto Injury Case is a Government Entity

Success in an injury accident lawsuit relies on many different things. It requires proper evidence that proves the facts you’ve alleged. It also requires factual allegations that meet the law’s standards for liability. But none of that may matter if you have not followed all of the procedural rules. A procedural defect may potentially destroy even the strongest of cases. That’s why the right San Mateo auto accident attorney is so important; your attorney can make sure sure you are compliant with all the rules and avoid the pitfalls that await the unaware.

The bus crash case of one Fresno-area woman is a good example. A.C., the injured party, was a passenger in a vehicle that was in an accident with a Kings Canyon school bus.

The injured woman sought damages from the school district, alleging that the bus driver who hit her had epilepsy, took medication for the condition, and was asleep at the wheel when he hit A.C.

The woman’s accident had an additional wrinkle that further complicated her case. The man who hit her was driving a public school bus at the time of the crash, meaning that A.C.’s claim for an award of damages was against both a private individual (the driver) and a governmental entity (the public school district.)

The Statute’s Six-Month Deadline for Claims Against a Government Entity

That mattered greatly because, when you’re suing a public entity (like a public school district) for injury damages, you have to proceed under the rules set out in the Government Claims Act. That law establishes that, in the case of a personal injury, the injured person has six months to present a written claim for damages to the applicable government entity.

Ultimately, the appeals court ruled that A.C. satisfied this six-month deadline, but not without some extensive litigation on the issue.

The complication she encountered is a reminder always to be careful in signing any official form. In A.C.’s case, she visited a chiropractic office and, while there, signed several forms. She recognized some of them as “similar to lien forms” but, believing she had to sign to get treatment, she signed all of them. One of the forms was a document authorizing the chiropractic office to present to the school district a claim for damages on A.C.’s behalf.

A few weeks later, A.C. retained legal counsel who filed their own claim for damages with the school district on A.C.’s behalf. The district rejected both, denying the first one in July and the second in November.

That difference mattered a great deal because A.C.’s legal team filed her injury action in the trial court the following April, which was five months after the second denial and nine months after the first denial. That meant that, if the chiropractic office’s claim was a valid one, then her lawsuit filing came three months too late. If it was not, then her civil complaint was timely.

Fortunately for A.C., she had legal counsel who recognized the first claim as not valid. The law says that, for a third party to be authorized on your behalf to do things like filing a claim for damages with a government entity, there must be proof that you made that authorization “knowingly” and “voluntarily.”

The injured woman alleged that she did not fully know what she was signing and that she signed because she believed she’d be denied medical treatment if she did not. That was enough to establish that the woman’s authorization wasn’t knowing and voluntary, so the first claim was invalid and A.C.’s lawsuit was timely under the statute.

Every case presents its own complexities. If one of the entities responsible for the harm you suffered is a governmental one, that almost always enhances the degree of complication. To ensure you’re ready to meet (and overcome) the unique hurdles your case presents, get in touch with the skilled San Mateo vehicle accident attorneys at the Law Offices of Galine, Frye, Fitting & Frangos. Our firm is a leading personal injury law firm in California experienced in taking on — and winning — these kinds of cases. To set up a free consultation with one of our helpful attorneys, contact us at 650-345-8484 or through our website.

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