Washington has more than 67,000 government employees. If any one of these people injures you while they are on duty, you have the right to sue the State of Washington for damages. In addition, if you are injured on government property or by a state agency due to negligence, knowing how to sue the State of Washington is advantageous.
How do you sue the government? By filing a tort claim against the individual or the agency responsible for your injury. It’s a simple answer, but it’s not a simple process. This guide discusses how Washington state torts are your ally when you come to a point where you need to file charges against the government or its employees. If you find yourself in this situation, the expert lawyers at Will & Will can help.
What Is a Tort Claim?
How to sue the State of Washington? Through a tort claim.
A tort claim is a legal claim for damages from someone else’s negligent actions. The goal is to recover compensation for such damages, including physical injuries, financial losses, or emotional harm. You can make a tort claim against anyone who has harmed you.
To tie in the relevance of a tort claim in suing the State of Washington, here’s a government-related example. Let’s say you were rear-ended at a stoplight. You get out of your car to look at the damage and the other vehicle, which you discover bears a government license plate. The person who was driving is a government employee, and they were driving their vehicle for work when they hit you due to distracted driving. Any injury you suffer as a result of this crash can lead to a tort claim against the government.
Keep in mind that your claims can include the State of Washington itself or a city or county unit. You can even sue specific government agencies and individuals.
Injury Claim Against the Washington State Government
The Washington Tort Claims Act provides details on how to sue the State of Washington. It states that you can file a claim “against the state’s officers, employees, or volunteers, acting in such capacity, for damages arising out of tortious conduct.”
This definition leaves open the possibility of an injury claim for almost any act of negligence by the government or its employees, such as:
- Vehicular accidents. If a government worker injures you while driving a vehicle for work, you can file a claim against the government, not just the individual. In most cases, when an employee is on duty, their employer — the government, in this case — can be liable for the injuries they cause.
- Premises liability. Any injury you suffer while on government property could lead to a government tort claim if it was the result of negligence. For instance, if you slip and fall on a puddle in the lobby of the Washington State Capitol Building, you may have a viable slip-and-fall claim.
- Medical malpractice. Some hospitals are run by the government. If a care provider in one of those hospitals harms you through medical negligence, you can file a medical malpractice claim against the state. Washington state tort reform limits on medical malpractice damages no longer exist. That means you can sue for the full amount you deserve.
Sometimes, you can sue a government agency even if you didn’t suffer a physical injury. For instance, you can file a tort of outrage in Washington state. Also called an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim, a tort of outrage involves intentional or reckless conduct that causes severe emotional distress. One example is a law enforcement officer wrongfully harming a loved one in front of you.
How to File a Claim Against the State of Washington
To file any legal claim, you have to follow certain rules. But to file a civil claim against the government, you have to follow highly specific guidelines. Make one mistake, and your claim could fail. Here’s what you need to know.
The Washington State Tort Process
The Washington state tort process begins with you filing a written notice of your claim with the government. You do this by filling out and filing a tort claim form. Remember that this form is not equivalent to a lawsuit. In fact, you won’t be able to file a lawsuit against the government until 60 days after you file the initial notice.
During those 60 days, the state will decide whether or not to approve your claim. If they approve, you may receive a settlement. But if they deny it, you may have to go to court to get what you’re owed.
Information in the Tort Claim Form
The tort claim form must include certain information, such as:
- Your name, birth date, and address
- Details about the incident that caused your injury
- Information about your injuries
- The amount of compensation you are seeking
Once you have gathered all their information, you need to file a lawsuit. The next step is to watch out for the deadline.
Washington State Tort Claim Statute of Limitations
Keep in mind that you can only have three years from the date of your injury or property damage to file a tort claim. This rule, called the Washington state tort claim statute of limitations, is strict, so it’s important to get started as soon as possible.
Injury Claims Against a Local Government in WA
You may know when and how to sue the State of Washington, but what if a city employee hurt you? They work for the city — not the state. Can you still sue them? Yes, you can.
Local governments may have slightly different rules and deadlines, but you can still sue individuals for the injuries they cause. Local offices might also have different sets of filings, though some counties do accept state-filed tort forms. Because the steps to suing a local government can be tricky, it’s best to partner with an experienced personal injury lawyer to ensure that the cards are stacked in your favor.
How Will & Will Can Help
Thanks to the Washington Tort Claims Act, you can sue the state and its employees for injuries. But just because it’s possible, doesn’t mean it’s easy. Fortunately, the attorneys at Will & Will are here to help. Our personal injury lawyers have decades of experience and the winning track record you need to gain an advantage when you’re hurt and desperately need compensation.
Injured by the government? Let us take care of all legal dealings so you can focus on healing. Don’t hesitate to reach out and schedule a free consultation with our attorneys. Call 206-209-5585 or contact us online.