Suing the State of Georgia for Accidents
The State of Georgia, like all states, is protected by sovereign immunity, the concept that the King can do no wrong and we commoners should not be able to sue.
That is the historical root of the practical reality that the government could be paralyzed by endless lawsuits if there were no limits.
The State of Georgia attempted to balance the right of the citizen to recover for wrongs with the need for the State to function with the passage of the GeorgiaTort Claims Act (“GTCA”), OCGA § 5-21-20 et seq.
Among other things, the GTCA requires that the injured party give notice in writing within 12 months of the date the party’s loss was or should have been discovered. OCGA § 50-21-26 (a) (1).
The ante litem letter must state “to the extent of the claimant’s knowledge and belief and as may be practicable under the circumstances,”:
- the state government entity whose acts or omissions are asserted as the basis for the claim.
- the time and place of the occurrence from which the claim arose.
- the nature and amount of the loss suffered.
- the acts or omissions that caused the loss.
UPDATE**** BE AWARE OF THE AMENDMENT OF 2014 THAT REQUIRES YOU TO PUT IN A SPECIFIC DOLLAR AMOUNT IN THE ANTE LITEM LETTER.
This “ante litem” or “before litigation” notice is supposed to put the State on notice of a potential claim and give them a chance to settle the case. The notice is a very strict prerequisite to suit, however.
The Georgia Supreme Court ruled in 2014 in BOARD OF REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY SYSTEM OF GEORGIA v. MYERS that a claimant who is sending an ante litem notice must send over as much detail as possible about the potential claim, including any known medical bills and lost wages and a statement about the expected future issue. The claimant is not bound by the amount that they put in the letter, but they cannot get by with generalities.
In that case, the lawyers simply sent over a letter saying that the medical care was ongoing and would be in an amount to be determined by a jury one day. The Court observed:
“Here, in addition to stating the amount of the loss claimed,which would have included her medical expenses thus far, Myers could have also stated that, based on her belief, there would be some pain and suffering damages or lost wages in the future, the amounts of which she did not yet have knowledge and could not practicably provide at that time.”
The bottom line is the ante litem notice to the State of Georgia must be as detailed as possible when it comes to damages. Ante litem notices are required in slip and fall cases against the State, as well as in car accident claims against the State. The Attorney General from the State of Georgia handles all of the defense work for the State and they tend not to settle cases prior to suit for fair value. If you want to resolve a significant claim with the State of Georgia, the reality is that a lawsuit will typically be necessary.