blog home Government Tort Liability Government Tort vs. Private Tort Claims: Key Differences

Government Tort vs. Private Tort Claims: Key Differences

By Peterson Law Group on May 30, 2024

A judges gavel on a desk.

If you were injured due to the negligent actions of a state agency, municipality, law enforcement agency, educational institution, or any type of state or local government entity, there are strict filing deadlines and statutory rules that make the process much different than suing a private party. This is because California law provides immunity and other protections that make the process more difficult when the negligent party is a government entity.

Still, in both public and private torts, the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff, who must provide sufficient evidence to support your claim. That’s why it’s crucial to speak with an experienced Irvine government tort attorney right away.

What Are Government and Private Torts in Irvine?

In both government and private tort claims, the injured party must prove that the defendant’s actions were negligent or intentional and directly caused their injuries. The goal is to compensate the victim for losses suffered, which may include medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.

Private tort claims involve disputes between individuals or private entities. Examples include car accidents, medical malpractice, and defamation. The legal process for these claims is straightforward, with no special immunity protections for the parties involved. Private tort claims arise from disputes between private individuals or entities. These claims seek to hold a party liable for harm caused by their actions or negligence.

Government tort claims, on the other hand, involve incidents where a government entity is at fault. Common scenarios include slip-and-falls on public property, injuries caused by government vehicles, and accidents due to poorly maintained roads.

Government entities are protected by sovereign immunity, which shields them from certain types of lawsuits. This means that individuals cannot sue the government without its consent. Government consent is typically granted under specific conditions and through detailed statutory processes. Private parties do not benefit from such protections.

Different Rules, Procedures, and Deadlines in Tort Claims

In private tort claims, individuals and businesses can be held liable for their actions or negligence without the need for special permissions or procedural hurdles. Government tort claims require a more complex procedure than private claims. For the latter, the claimant must first submit a formal notice of claim to the relevant government entity, typically within six months of the incident. This notice must contain detailed information about the incident, including the date, location, circumstances, the nature of the injuries or damages sustained, and the amount of compensation sought. Failure to adhere to these strict requirements can result in the dismissal of the claim.

To complicate matters even more, government entities often have their own forms and documentation requirements. Statutes of limitations for government tort claims and private tort claims differ notably in California. For private tort claims, the statute of limitations typically ranges from one to two years, depending on the nature of the claim. Once the government entity responds or fails to respond, the claimant has a limited window, often six months, to file a lawsuit in court.

Compensation and Damages Available in California for Tort Claims

When it comes to government tort claims in Irvine, there are often strict limits on the amount of compensation a claimant can receive. For example, California law may impose statutory caps on non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering, in certain types of claims against government entities. Punitive damages, which are intended to punish the defendant and deter future misconduct, are generally not available in claims against government bodies. These limitations can significantly affect the potential recovery for claimants, making it essential to understand the specific caps that apply to their case.

Private tort claims also typically do not have such stringent compensation limits, allowing for potentially higher settlements or judgments. While there are no universal caps in California, certain limitations may still apply depending on the nature of the case. For example, under California’s Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act (MICRA), medical malpractice claims are subject to specific caps on non-economic damages.

Our Tort Liability Lawyers Provide Solid Legal Guidance in Irvine

For over 35 years, Peterson Law Group PC has been taking on state and local governments in Irvine and across California. We’ve won substantial settlements for our clients and have been selected for the Best Law Firms award by Best Lawyers. Founding attorney John Peterson has also been recognized by U.S. News, and he belongs to the exclusive Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

Call our experienced tort liability lawyers in Irvine at (949) 390-6874 to learn more about how to move forward with your case today.

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