In Georgia, as in every state, if you're injured by another person's negligence, you have the option of filing a personal injury case in the state's civil court system.
But what if you are injured through the fault of the government or one of its employees in Georgia? Let's say you were hit by a county vehicle or you tripped and fell on broken linoleum in your local Georgia Department of Driver Services building, for example. In those situations, the Georgia Tort Claims Act -- or a similar law at the municipal level -- will likely govern any injury claim you decide to make. Let's take a closer look at how claims like these typically work.
Section 50-21-23 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) says that 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," as long as the tort (the harmful act) in question is not included in the list of exceptions laid out in section 50-21-24.
This law declares that the state is not liable for losses that result from any of the following situations:
If the tort falls under one of the exceptions in Section 50-21-24, or if it occurred when the state officer or employee wasnot "acting within the scope of their official duties or employment," the injured person may not bring a claim under the Georgia Tort Claims Act. However, as to that last category, the injured person may be able to bring a claim against the state officer or employee as a private individual.
Since the list of things the Georgia Tort Claims Act prohibits injured people from suing for is quite long (and full of legal jargon), what can form the basis of an injured person's claim under the Act?
The list in Section 50-21-24 leaves open a wide range of potential personal injury cases. For instance, claims arising from car accidents and slip and fall incidents are allowed under the GTCA. A person who is injured by a government employee who is driving as part of his or her job, for instance, could bring a claim for damages. Similarly, a person injured in a state-owned building due to a dangerous property condition could make a claim.
When trying to figure out if a claim can be brought under the Georgia Tort Claims Act, it is important to remember that (a) the government officer or employee must have been acting within the scope of their duties, and (b) the claim must be one in which losses can be compensated with money damages. (Learn more about Damages in a Personal Injury Case.) Also, before the claim can be filed, you must provide written notice to the government office in question regarding what happened, including:
Special rules and time limits apply to filing a claim against a municipal or local government in Georgia cities and counties. For instance, the City of Atlanta requires a person filing a claim against the city to do so on a form provided on the City of Atlanta website. The claim must be filed within six months, and the city council and mayor must approve the claim before the city will pay it. If the city refuses to pay the claim, the injured person may file a lawsuit in court.
In Savannah, claim forms can be picked up from the Office of the Clerk of Council. Instructions are available on the City of Savannah website. There is no fee to file a claim against the city in Savannah.
For claims against the state of Georgia, written notice must be given within 12 months of the date of injury or loss. Notice can be mailed or delivered in person to the Risk Management Division of the Department of Administrative Services. The case can be filed in court only after the Department of Administrative Services has denied the claim, or if more than 90 days pass without the Department taking any action after the claim is filed.