You may have heard the term “government tort claim” thrown around before, but what exactly is a government tort claim? The government has qualified immunity against lawsuits which means that there are types of claims that cannot be brought against the government. This immunity applies to all government entities within a state including state, county, and local officials. However, the immunity excludes almost all claims for wrongful death and personal injury. If a governmental entity is responsible for your injury, then a tort claim must be filed by the injured person in order for that person to recover damages.
A governmental tort claim can arise in many different situations, but the most common ones that we deal with at Keller & Keller include auto accidents involving a police car or government owned vehicle, slip and fall accidents on government property, and accidents involving public transportation.
How Are Tort Claims Different?
If you were injured under one of these circumstances, your pursuit for damages and compensation will be a little different than an ordinary personal injury claim. Each state has specific rules governing their Tort Claims Act. Under the New Mexico Tort Claims Act, which can be read in full here, deadlines for personal injury claims are strict. There are also specific notice provisions that must be followed precisely. Below is a summary of New Mexico tort claim provisions:
- The New Mexico tort claim statute of limitations is 2 years.
- However, the notice provision specifies that every person claiming damages from the state or any local body under the Tort Claims Act must present the claim within 90 days after an occurrence. If this deadline is not met, then the claim is forever barred.
- The claim must be presented to the risk management division for claims against the state, the mayor of the municipality for claims against the municipality, the superintendent of the school district for claims against the school district, the county clerk of a county for claims against the county, or to the administrative head of any other local public body for claims against such local public body.
- For wrongful death, the claim may be presented by the personal representative of the deceased person or any person claiming benefits of the proceeds of a wrongful death action, within 6 months after the date of occurrence.
Determining if a Government Entity Is Involved
Sometimes it is easy to determine if a government entity is involved. Accidents that occur on public transportation or with a police car clearly fall under the New Mexico Tort Claim Act. Sometimes, it is more difficult to determine whether or not a government entity is involved. Unclear examples of instances where government entities are involved include:
- Accidents that happen in a construction zone where the construction contributed to the accident.
- Accidents where the claimant was struck by a vehicle being pursued by the police.
- Accidents where the view of the intersection was obstructed due to poor intersection maintenance.
- Accidents resulting from malfunctioning street lights.
- Accidents that happen because of insufficient pedestrian walkways.