Georgia Tort Claims Act
The Georgia Tort Claims Act is a body of law in the State of Georgia that provides a means for bringing lawsuits against governmental employees and entities in limited circumstances. Generally, state entities and employees have sovereign immunity and cannot be sued for personal injuries caused by their negligence. However, this Act carves out exceptions to the rule when immunity is waived. The Act may be found at O.C.G.A. 50-21-20 to 50-21-37 and it states, in part, as follows:
The state waives its sovereign immunity for the torts of state officers and employees while acting within the scope of their official duties or employment and shall be liable for such torts in the same manner as a private individual or entity would be liable under like circumstances; provided, however, that the state's sovereign immunity is waived subject to all exceptions and limitations set forth in this article. The state shall have no liability for losses resulting from conduct on the part of state officers or employees which was not within the scope of their official duties or employment.What are some examples of injuries for which suit may be filed?
Generally speaking, injuries arising out of the use of state controlled roads will give rise to a waiver of immunity. Causes of action can allege:
- defects in the road, such as missing drain covers, potholes, and unsafe drop offs
- design defects creating unsafe intersections or roadways
- negligent maintenance leading to unsafe conditions
Automobile wrecks caused by the negligent operation of a motor vehicle by a state employee, such as a state trooper, can give rise to valid claims.
Medical malpractice or negligent medical treatment of inmates in prisons can give rise to valid claims.
There are other scenarios for which claims can be made against the State, and the above list is not intended to be exhaustive.What are the deadlines?
It is extremely important to contact an attorney quickly after an injury caused by a State employee or entity as there is a 12-month deadline for putting the State on notice of your claim. This notice is called an ante-litem notice, and there are very specific requirements under the statute for what information the notice must contain, to whom the notice is directed, and how the notice is sent. Many Georgia judges have dismissed cases where the notice was not properly given, thus, it is imperative that all the requirements be met.
As with other tort cases, there is a 2-year statute of limitations, thus, the suit must be filed within 2 years of the alleged negligent act.How much can be recovered under the Act?
The Act limits recovery to $1,000.000 per person even if there are multiple governmental entities that are sued. However, if your case involves the death of a loved one, there are two separate claims available, one for the estate of the decedent, and one for the wrongful death of the decedent, which is brought by a surviving spouse or children. Thus, in death cases it is possible to seek $2,000.000.
There is no right to receive punitive damages under the Act.
The aggregate liability of the State is $3,000,000 per occurrence regardless of the number of injured parties.