Suing a Public Entity

Is it possible to sue the City of Tucson for a poorly designed crosswalk? Can you sue Pima County if a Sheriff runs into you? Can the State of Arizona be liable for your injury if a massive pothole on I-10 caused it?

The short answer to these questions is yes. However, when a plaintiff wants to bring a personal injury claim against a public entity, there is one law that severely limits your ability to do so. A.R.S. § 12-821.01 requires that any person with a claim against a public entity or public employee serve a Notice of Claim upon that entity within 180 days of the incident. If you fail to do so properly within that abbreviated time period, you can no longer file a lawsuit against that public entity and your case is over. Therefore, this Notice law severely reduces your statute of limitations from the usual 730 days to 180 days if a public-entity caused your injuries.

A Notice of Claim must set forth the facts of your case, the theory of liability, and the extent of your injuries. The Courts have stated that this Notice of Claim requirement is meant to “allow the public entity to investigate and assess liability, to permit the possibility of settlement prior to litigation, and to assist the public entity in financial planning and budgeting.” Martineau v. Maricopa County, 207 Ariz. 332, 335-36 (App. 2004). In reality, this harsh law acts to bar injured victims from compensation. In many instances, especially for severe injuries, victims can still be treating and understanding the extent of their injuries as the 180-day mark passes. The notice of claim requirement is therefore an effective way of eliminating lawsuits against public entities at the expense of injured victims

The law does more than restrict time. It also imposes strict rules that must be complied with or your potential claim may be extinguished before it begins. For example, you must state a specific amount for which you are willing to settle your claim. This can be extremely difficult if 180 days after the incident you are still incurring medical bills. Furthermore, a process server must serve the Notice upon the proper individuals, sometimes 5-10 of them for a single claim. This adds significant cost to the case. Many jurisdictions have their own specific filing requirements. If you do not strictly comply with these requirements, your claim may expire.

What does this mean to you? While you can still file a claim and sue a public entity, this strict law increases the difficulty. The Rockafellow Law Firm has successfully sued dozens of different public entities and understands how to navigate the always-evolving Notice of Claim law. If you believe a city, police department, sheriff’s department, state medical facility, county, the State of Arizona, or any other public entity or employee may be liable for your injuries, call the firm with over 40 years of experience.

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