For most car accident claims, both Washington State and local governments waive their sovereign immunity, allowing accident victims to file for compensation after an accident with a negligent employee who was on the clock or in a government vehicle. The process to file these claims, however, differs from claims against individuals or corporations. Knowing how to sue the government can be the difference between you winning your accident settlement and getting nothing.
Claims Filed Against Washington State Government or Its Entities
Accident victims cannot file a lawsuit against the state government or its entities without first filing a claim with the Washington State Office of Risk Management (ORC). This requires using a tort claim form, which includes information about the accident and damages. Victims can submit the completed form to the Office of Risk Management in person or by email, fax, or mail.
Note: Be sure to read the ORC’s page carefully; if you fill out the form incorrectly, the office will likely deny your claim. Keep copies off all forms you send the ORC; you will not get them back.
After filing this form, the victim must wait 60 days to file a lawsuit against the negligent driver or the government. During this time, the Office of Risk Management launches an investigation into the accident. Following the investigation, but before the expiration of the 60-day waiting period, the government will likely attempt to enter into settlement negotiations with the injured victim.
After the 60-day period passes, the victim can file a lawsuit if he was unable to reach a settlement with the government. Like all personal injury claims in the state, you have only three years after the date of the accident to file a lawsuit. It is important to note, however, that the statute of limitations is on hold during the 60-day waiting period.
Claims Filed Against Local Governments or Entities
Claims filed against city, county, or other local governments proceed in a similar fashion to those filed on the state level. The injured victim or surviving family members of a deceased victim must first present their claim to the appropriate entity, and wait 60 days before filing a lawsuit to gain compensation for damages.
Some local entities use the state form, while others adopt their own forms. Both Seattle and Kirkland have their own claims process that require completing specific forms and submitting them via mail.
The reason behind this process is to reduce the number of lawsuits against government agencies, and it is effective in doing so. Because government entities often offer settlements during the 60-day waiting period, most victims can negotiate a reasonable settlement and avoid pursuing legal action.
Of course, if a lawsuit is necessary, the victim is free to file a personal injury suit following the expiration of the 60-day waiting period.
The statute of limitations for filing claims against local governments is also three years.
Do I need a lawyer to file a claim against the government?
It is not strictly necessary to have a lawyer in order to file a claim against a state or local government agency, but it is a good idea to consult a Washington State car accident attorney before submitting your forms.
If you or a loved one suffered severe or fatal injuries in a crash with a government employee or volunteer in Washington State, Max Meyers Law PLLC can help. Our team works with accident victims to ensure they get the compensation they need and deserve to pay for medical bills, rehabilitation, lost wages, and more.Contact us today at 425-399-7000 to set up a free, no-obligation appointment to discuss your case.