Suits against governmental entities are quite common. In fact, they are far more common than most might think. This misconception can cause significant problems for injured persons due to some rather strict limitations place on claims against the government.
Governmental Claims Cover the Spectrum of Personal Injury Cases
Many times, people associate suits against the government solely with civil rights type claims. However, claims against the government span the spectrum of personal injury claims. They include every conceivable variety of personal injury claim.
They include such routine claims as minor slip and fall accidents and minor car accidents. They may also involve medical malpractice claims, nursing home abuse and neglect claims, trucking accidents, construction accidents, and every other kind of negligent act that results in injuries to innocent victims.
Shortened Deadlines for Injury Claims Against the Government
Unfortunately, these claims are often all but routine and may involve very serious injuries and even wrongful death. Under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act, There are a number of limitations that apply to claims against governmental entities that do not apply to typical personal injury claims.
First, in claims against state, local and county governments, there is a very short 90 day deadline called the Tort Claims Notice deadline. A notice of tort claims must be delivered to the appropriate governmental entity within 90 days or the claims will with few exceptions be waived. Second, there is a shorter statute of limitations of 2 years rather than 3 years on claims against the government. Finally, there are statutory limitations or caps on recovery of damages for personal injuries under the Tort Claims Act in suits against the government. Each of these will be discussed individually below.
Rules Apply to Any Claim Against a Governmental Entity
Before moving on to a discussion of these other issues, it is very important to understand that suits against “governmental entities” cover a lot of ground. It would include suits against schools of all stripes including everything from daycare to universities.
It would include suits against government (local, county and state) hospitals and clinics. It would include suits against the employees, agents or assigns of any of these entities. This in turn would include suits against doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers, truck drivers, bus drivers, or anyone else acting on behalf of or for the benefit of a governmental entity.
It would include injuries resulting from governmentally operated automobiles, trucks, equipment and machinery. It would include suits for injuries suffered on governmental property such as slip and fall accidents. It would also include injuries suffered on governmental construction sites, the causes for which are too numerous to list here. In fact, the list generally could go on and on.
Question #1: Is There a Government Entity Involved
As stated at the inception of this article, these claims span the entire range of possible personal injury claims. The important thing to understand is that it is absolutely imperative that you determine whether it may be necessary to sue a governmental entity. And this must be done quickly. There is only 90 days to make this determination and to send out the proper notices. Failure to act quickly will result in a bar to your claims against the government.