Bringing a personal injury lawsuit in Washington's court system is usually an option for anyone who is injured by the negligence of a private individual or entity within the state. But for those injured by the fault of a government employee or agency, the process is a bit different.
What do you do if you’re hit by a car driven by a government worker, or if you slip and fall in a government building? Filing an injury claim against the government may be an option, but you’ll need to understand the rules that apply to the particular jurisdiction, and to your situation. In this article, we'll discuss the process for filing an injury claim against the government (state or local) in Washington.
Injury claims against the state of Washington must be filed according to the rules laid out in Revised Code of Washington section 4.92.100, which allows claims against the state of Washington or its "officers, employees, or volunteers" for "damages arising out of tortious conduct."
While "tortious conduct" is a broad category, many common types of injury claims fall within it, such as:
Other types of claims may also be an option if injury or property damage occurs as a result of tortious conduct on the part of the government.
All claims brought against the state government in Washington must follow the rules laid out in section 4.92.100 of the RCW. The process begins when the injured person files written notice of the claim with the state government. The notice must be filed on the standard tort claim form provided by the state’s Department of Enterprise Services, Office of Risk Management.
The standard tort claim form requires several pieces of information, including:
The claim form must be filed with the government within the time limit (set by a law called a statute of limitations) for the type of claim. Different claims in Washington may have different time limits. For instance, actions for personal injury or property damage must be filed within three years, while actions for defamation must be filed within two years.
Once the claim form is filed, the injured person must wait 60 days before filing a lawsuit in court. During this time, the state reviews the claim and decides whether or not to approve it. If the state denies the claim, the injured person may choose to go to court.
Damages available in a claim against the state government in Washington are generally similar to those available in other types of injury-related claims, including compensation for medical bills, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. Learn more about Personal Injury Damages.
RCW section 4.96.020 covers the process for injury claims against local governments in Washington. Generally speaking, a claim for injury or property damage that could be brought against the state government, or against a state official or employee, can also be brought against the local government, or a local official or employee.
Each local and municipal government has rules for filing notice of the claim, and many of these municipalities provide written claim forms similar to those used by the state. The City of Seattle, for instance, offers both a claim form and instructions for its use on the city’s Web site. Some local governments, including the City of Seattle, will also accept the state’s tort claim form.
Just as with claims against the state, a claim against a local government in Washington must be filed before the statute of limitations on the claim expires.