How to Claim for Damages

Three Methods:Filing a Local Government ClaimFiling a State ClaimFiling a Federal Claim

If you have suffered a personal injury or property damages for which you think a government entity is liable, the process is a little more complicated than if you simply wanted to sue an individual. Thanks to a historical concept known as "sovereign immunity," you generally cannot sue the government for such a claim. However, in modern times, federal, state, and local governments have passed laws allowing citizens to sue government departments in certain limited instances.[1]

Method 1
Filing a Local Government Claim

  1. Image titled Conduct Research Step 3
    Check applicable laws and regulations to make sure you qualify. Your city or county has specific laws that determine what claims you can file against the city or county government.
    • All city and county governments have deadlines for filing claims. For example, if you have a personal injury claim against Los Angeles County, it must be filed within six months of the occurrence that gave rise to the claim. A property damage claim must be filed within one year.[2] The applicable deadline typically can be found by reading your state's statute of limitations law.[3]
    • Deadlines for filing a claim for damages or a lawsuit against the local government typically are far shorter than they would be if you were suing a private business or individual.[4]
  2. Image titled Conduct Research Step 19
    Gather information about your claim. Before you start filling out the form, make sure you have any necessary documentation or other evidence that supports your claim.[5][6]
    • For example, if your car was damaged when you drove over a pothole in a city street, your evidence might include photos of the damage to your car or an estimate from a mechanic for the cost of repairs.
    • Estimates, receipts, or police reports all must be included to help establish your damages as part of your claim.[7]
  3. Image titled Announce Your Retirement Step 8
    Fill out the appropriate form. Your city or county typically will have a form available for you to file a claim for damages.[8][9]
    • You can get a claim form by visiting the city or county government website, or by calling or visiting your city or county clerk's office.[10]
    • Follow all instructions provided regarding the formatting and filling out of the form. For example, you typically will be instructed that hand-written answers should be printed legibly using blue or blank ink.[11]
    • If you're filing a personal injury claim, you may be required to fill out and file a medical release form in addition to your claim form.[12]
  4. Image titled Notarize a Document Step 4
    Submit the form to the appropriate agency. Once you've completed your form, you must submit it to the government agency or department responsible for your damages.
    • Before you send your form, double-check your information to make sure everything is complete and accurate to the best of your knowledge. You must sign your form under penalty of perjury and may be charged with a crime for submitting a false claim.[13]
    • The city government's website or the city's customer service line should be able to tell you where to submit your claim. For example, if you have a claim for damages against the city of Seattle, you must file your form at the city clerk's office in city hall.[14]
    • Forms for damages that occurred on city streets or on public transportation typically must be filed with the city or metropolitan transit authority.[15]
  5. Image titled Prepare a Power of Attorney Step 12
    Follow any other local procedures. If your city or county has any additional requirements such as hearings or interviews related to your claim, make sure you follow up as necessary.
    • Once you file your claim, the city or a claim adjuster working for the city will review and investigate your claim.[16] You may be contacted for further information during the process of investigation.
    • Expect the city to take anywhere from 60 days to several months to send you a report on the investigation and a decision on your claim.[17][18]
    • In most cases, the city or county will resolve your claim over the telephone or through the mail, and you won't have any reason to meet with the claims adjuster or any other government staff in person.[19]
  6. Image titled Change Your Name in Texas Step 1
    File a lawsuit. If the local government doesn't resolve your claim to your liking, you may have the ability to file a lawsuit in state court.[20]
    • For example, if you file a claim against Los Angeles County and your claim is rejected, you have six months from the date on your rejection notice to file a case in court.[21]
    • If you want to file a lawsuit against the city, you should consider consulting a private attorney to review your claim and go over your options with you.
    • To file a lawsuit, you typically must pay fees ranging between $300 and $600 just to initiate your lawsuit. After you file your complaint, you will incur other costs as the lawsuit proceeds to trial, regardless of whether you hire an attorney.[22] If you cannot afford the fees, you may be able to file a request with the court to have the fees waived.

Method 2
Filing a State Claim

  1. Image titled Conduct Research Step 15
    Check your state law to make sure your claim is eligible. Each state has a law that governs the types of claims for damages that can be filed against the state government.
    • Some states may have limits to damages in certain circumstances. For example, if your car is damaged by a pothole in Michigan, the state awards damages only for damages beyond the amount paid by your car insurance company.[23]
    • You also must be aware of the deadline to file your claim. Claims for damages are governed by a state statute of limitations, and the time you have to file against the government often is far shorter than it is for claims against private businesses or individuals.[24][25]
    • For example, in Michigan you have only one year to file a claim for property damages against the state, and only six months to file a claim for personal injury damages.[26]
    • Many states have laws that limit state government liability for torts, particularly liability for damages or injuries that occur as a result of negligence in maintaining state government buildings or property.[27]
  2. Image titled Develop a Relationship With a Customer Step 1
    Consider hiring an attorney. State law regarding claims for damages can be tricky, and usually requires you to act fast if you want to receive payment for a valid claim.
    • The state may have separate deadlines for filing a claim or for filing advance notice of a claim or intent to file a lawsuit for a claim. An attorney experienced in claims for damages against the state will be able to advise you when your deadlines fall and what notice is required in your case.[28]
  3. Image titled Get Power of Attorney Step 8
    Gather information about your claim. Before you file your claim, make sure you have any necessary documents or other supporting information and evidence.
    • Typically some form of documentation is required to support your claim for a specific amount of damages. For example, if you are claiming the state is liable for damages to your car, you should include an estimate for the repair. Some states such as Tennessee require you to get two estimates to submit with your claim.[29]
  4. Image titled Get Power of Attorney Step 10
    File notice of your claim. Many states have an additional requirement that you send notice of your claim to each government employee or agency potentially responsible before you file your actual claim.
    • States dictate specific information that must be included in the notice, including the date and time of the incident, the location of the incident, and your full legal name and contact information.[30]
    • Often you also must wait a period of time between 30 and 120 days after sending notice before you take any further action on your claim.[31]
  5. Image titled Write a Grant Proposal Step 3
    Fill out the appropriate claim form. Most states have a standardized form you can fill out to file a claim for damages.
    • Some states such as Michigan require your completed form to be signed in the presence of a notary.[32] If you don't know where to find a notary, call your bank – many offer notary services free of charge to their customers. Otherwise you may be able to find a notary you can use for a small fee at private businesses such as check-cashing companies.
    • While some states require a particular form to be used if you want to file a claim for damages, in other states you may file a claim for damages in any written notice as long as it includes necessary information such as your name and contact information, and the specific details about your claim.[33]
  6. Image titled Find a Job in Dubai Step 5
    Submit your form to the appropriate agency. Typically you must file your form with the state agency responsible for your damages before you can take any other action against the state.
    • For example, if you wish to report vehicle damages caused by a pothole on a state trunkline in Michigan, you must file your claim with the Michigan Department of Transportation.[34]
    • Typically you must file your form in the state office located in the county where the damage occurred.[35]
    • If your state holds hearings, you will be sent a notice with the date and time for your hearing once it is scheduled.[36]
  7. Image titled Get Child Support Step 24
    File a lawsuit. If you are not satisfied with the way the state agency handles your claim, you may have the ability to file a lawsuit in state court.
    • Some states only review claims below a certain amount. For example, if you allege damages of more than $1,000 against the Michigan Department of Transportation, you can recover only by filing a lawsuit.[37]
    • Many states require you to file a notice of intent to sue before you file your lawsuit. Additionally, there may be a special court with exclusive jurisdiction over claims against the state. For example, in Michigan you must file a claim against the state only in the Court of Claims in the county where the damage occurred.[38]
    • Some states may have different procedures depending on the amount of your claim. For example, claims under $1,000 against the state of Kentucky are reviewed by an investigator in the state Board of Claims office. Dismissed claims can be reviewed by the full board at your request; however, decisions of the full board are final. Claims over $1,000 can be appealed to the district court.[39]
    • When you file your lawsuit, you typically must pay a filing fee with the court ranging from $300 to $600.[40] If you cannot afford the fees, you can apply with the court for a waiver.

Method 3
Filing a Federal Claim

  1. Image titled Find a Job in Dubai Step 6
    Determine if your claim is allowed under the Federal Tort Claims Act. The FTCA includes many limitations and exemptions, so you cannot sue for every wrongful or negligent act committed by a federal employee that causes you harm.[41]
    • The FTCA only permits lawsuits against federal employees for negligence while acting within the scope of their employment duties. Government contractors cannot be sued under the FTCA.[42]
  2. Image titled Get a Job Fast Step 10
    Gather information and supporting documentation for your claim. Pull together all of your documents and any witnesses you intend to use as evidence of your claim before you proceed.
    • The only type of relief allowed by the FTCA is monetary damages of a specific amount. Your state law will determine whether the federal employee was negligent, so you must look at state law to determine what sort of evidence would support your claim.[43]
    • Your claim must include the exact dollar amount of money you believe you are owed, as well as a detailed account of the facts and circumstances that gave rise to your claim.
    • Any documents such as medical bills that lend support to the dollar amount you are claiming should be included with your claim.[44]
    • Police reports or insurance company reports also may be valuable. For example, if you get into a car accident with a U.S. postal truck and the police report indicates that the postal worker was at fault in the accident, the U.S. government may be responsible for your damages.[45]
  3. Image titled Open a Restaurant Step 8
    File an administrative claim with the appropriate agency. You must exhaust all administrative resources before you file a lawsuit under the FTCA.
    • The FTCA requires you to file your claim with the federal agency responsible for the negligence you allege. For example, if your claim was based on an accident that occurred while you were in a Social Security office, you would file your form with Social Security.[46]
    • The simplest way to file your claim is to use the federal government's standard claim form, known as Standard Form 95.[47] The Department of Justice makes this form available at
    • You must file your administrative claim within two years of the incident that gave rise to your claim.[48]
  4. Image titled Have a Good Job Interview Step 10
    Consider hiring an attorney. Federal courts and the FTCA have complex procedures, and an attorney can help guide you and ensure everything is done correctly.[49]
    • Given the brief timeframe you have to file a federal tort claim, making a mistake could mean you have missed the deadline and no longer have the ability to recover damages.
    • An experienced attorney understands all the exceptions and legal defenses that may be claimed by the federal government, and can help you anticipate those defenses and argue against them.[50]
  5. Image titled Apply for Scholarships Step 13
    Wait for the agency response. After you file your administrative claim, the agency has six months to respond.[51]
    • If the agency admits your claim, it may pay some or all of the money you claim you are owed, in which case you wouldn't have to go to court.[52]
  6. Image titled Change Your Name in Texas Step 13
    File a lawsuit in federal court. After six months, you have the ability to sue for money damages from the government.[53]
    • If the agency denies your claim, you have six months from the date on your notice of denial to file a lawsuit. However, you don't have to wait for the agency to rule before you proceed with your lawsuit.[54]
    • You have the choice of filing your lawsuit either in the U.S. District Court where you live, or where the incident took place that gave rise to the claim (if it happened in a different county or state). However, you must file in federal court and cannot sue the federal government in state court.[55]
    • You must pay a filing fee of $400 to initiate a civil action in federal court.[56] If you can't afford the filing fee, you can fill out an application with your financial information and request that the fees be waived in your case.
    • Once you've filed your lawsuit, the case proceeds as any other civil lawsuit does in federal court.[57]

Sources and Citations

Show more... (54)

Article Info

Categories: Civil Litigation