Suing The Government: Pre-Suit Notice Requirements

It is a sad reality that innocent citizens are oftentimes injured by their own government. City and county employees and/or state employees operate vehicles on a day-to-day basis and like other drivers sometimes are guilty of negligence which cause considerable damage to innocent third parties. Because of the expansive conduct of governmental entities in virtually every aspect of our lives, there are many other real life scenarios whereby innocent third party citizens cam be and are injured by the acts of government employees. In such circumstances, there is always an issue as to whether the injured individual has a right to sue the government for any damages inflicted because of the longstanding doctrine of Sovereign Immunity.
Setting aside for a moment whether one can sue the government successfully and overcome a defense of Sovereign Immunity, another hurdle the injured individual faces in these cases is dealing with statutory pre-suit notice requirements. These pre-suit notice requirements are often referred to as “ante-litem” notice provisions. What this means is that before a injured citizen can sue his or her government with a claim for money damages, they must give the government pre-suit notice of the claim so that the government has a sufficient opportunity to investigate the claim and determine whether the government has any liability and, if so, what damages are involved. Here in Georgia, if an injured individual has a claim against a municipality, they must provide notice to that municipality within six months of the date of the occurrence otherwise their claim is time barred. If they have a claim against a county, they must give notice within one year and the same is true for claims against state government. There are also specific methods by which these notices must be given so if the injured individual is acting without the advice of counsel, they could run afoul of the various ante-litem notice provisions. If they do, they may not be able to sue the government – even if their claim is meritorious. This is why we have referred to these ante-litem provisions in other blogs written on the subject as “Traps for the Unwary.”
If you or any member of your family are injured by a government employee, you should immediately confer with counsel so that pre-suit notice requirements can be observed and your claims not held by law to have been waived for failing to provide statutorily mandated ante-litem notices to the government entity involved.

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