Personal injury accidents can happen anywhere. You can be involved in a car crash on the highway; slip and fall in a grocery store; or be bitten by your neighbor’s dog. But if your accident happens to occur on government property or involve a government employee, pursuing damages for your injuries in Georgia will be more complicated and difficult.
Because all government entities (and their employees acting within the scope of their duties) are protected by sovereign immunity.
Lawsuits and Sovereign Immunity
Sovereign immunity is a legal tenant that protects governments (municipal, state, local, and federal) from being sued. Unless it waives its sovereign immunity, the government cannot be sued. What this translates to in everyday legal practice is that there are a limited number of instances in which the government can be sued. And, in order for a lawsuit or claim against the government to go forward, there are specific rules and procedures that must be followed.
One of those rules is that of prior notice.
In Georgia, before suing the state or municipality (“city”) you must provide the government with ante litem notice (send an “ante litem” letter).
Georgia Ante Litem Notice.
Taken from the Latin for “before litigation,” before a party can sue the state or a municipality in Georgia, they must provide “ante litem notice.”
The purpose of the ante litem notice is to give the government sufficient notice of the claim in order to facilitate settlement before the lawsuit is filed.
Paraphrasing (not citing) the law’s requirements, it requires, among other things, that the notice set forth to the fullest extent of the plaintiff’s knowledge and belief at the time the claim is made, the specifics surrounding the event, including:
- the state government entity involved
- the time and place of the incident
- the plaintiff’s injuries and damages and cost of damages
- the specific acts or omissions that caused the loss.
Depending on which branch of the government you are suing, your time to serve the ante litem notice varies.
When suing a municipality (“city”) in Georgia, the ante litem notice must be sent within 6 months of the incident and it must be served on either the mayor’s office or the chairperson of the city council or commission. This is the shortest of the service requirements.
Ante litem notices served on either the state or county governments must be presented within 12 months of the injury and have different service requirements.
In contrast, personal injury actions brought against individuals have a 2-year statute of limitations.
Strict Compliance Not Substantial Compliance.
Above all, before a suit for personal injury or property damage can go forward against a government entity in Georgia, strict compliance with the ante litem notice requirements is mandatory.
“Substantially” complying with the notice’s requirements is not good enough. Essentially this means that the notice must include all the details of the incident and a specific amount of damages incurred by the plaintiff (i.e., injured person).
Failure to strictly comply with the ante litem notice’s requirements can result in your case being dismissed.
Personal Injury Attorneys in Cumming, Georgia.
The personal injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Mark Weinstein, P.C., are here to help you. We serve clients in Atlanta, and in a number of counties throughout Georgia, including: Clayton County, Cobb County, Dekalb County, Douglas County, Fulton County, and Paulding County, among others. To find out how we can help you, call us at: 770-888-7707. Or contact us here.