There is a tricky set of rules that covers claims against the government and its employees, and sometimes humane societies and SPCAs. Basically, before any court filings, a claim must be made in writing to the entity as follows:
- The claim must be made very soon after the attack. Do it within 60 days!
- The claim must be very specific in its presentation of the facts and injuries.
- The claim has to be handed to the correct person in the correct office.
A court case cannot be filed unless and until:
- The governmental claim is made, AND,
- The entity has either denied the claim, or has failed to deny it within a specific amount of time.
You may have heard that there are circumstances wherein the usual statute of limitations is “tolled” or “extended,” such as when the victim is a child. Those rules do not necessarily apply to governmental claims!
Even if a governmental claim is for a small amount of money, and might be heard in the small claims court, the victim still has to comply with the governmental claim procedures.
Government offices readily hand out the claim forms. If any mistake is made on the form, however, the victim will lose all rights. The ease of getting these forms is in complete contrast to the technical knowledge required to fill them out.
Another trick is determining exactly who to give the filled-out form to. If it is sent to the wrong person or wrong office, the victim once again can lose all rights for that reason alone.
A humane society or SPCA can have governmental immunity in certain states. Therefore this type of defendant must be treated as if it actually were a governmental entity until an attorney determines otherwise.
Because of these complexities, victims are absolutely advised to consult with an attorney if there is reason to suspect that a defendant might be a governmental agency or employee. “Absolutely advised” means that there is no exception whatsoever to this advice.