Suing the City After a Car Accident Requires a Perfect Ante Litem Notice Letter within Six Months
When a Georgia personal injury lawsuit is brought against a municipality, there are laws that require that certain procedural requirements must be followed in order for the case to be heard by the court. One of the primary requirements of the GTCA is the ante litem notice requirement contained in OCGA § 36-33-5. Specifically, cities (known as municipalities in the law) have to be put on written notice within 6 months of the tort and the notice must strictly comply with the statutory requirements. If they don’t, the case is thrown out of the courts.
OCGA § 36-33-5 requires that a claimant provide the agency being sued with details regarding the accident as well as the alleged acts of negligence giving rise to the claim. The claimant has six months from the date of injury to file this notice. On July 1, 2014, an amendment to the GTCA was added, requiring that claimants also provide “the specific amount of monetary damages being sought . . . [which] shall constitute an offer of compromise.” What that means is, you have to say exactly how much you are seeking and the number you put in the letter is an offer to settle the case that the City can accept.
A recent case discusses the amendment, illustrating how strictly courts interpret the GTCA and its requirements.
The Facts of the Case
In this particular case, the lawyers for the plaintiff screwed up. The plaintiff was injured in a Georgia car accident while riding as a passenger in her husband’s truck. The plaintiff claimed that the other driver, a police officer, was responsible for the collision. The plaintiff filed an ante litem notice with the city describing when and where the accident occurred, as well as describing the allegedly negligent acts of the police officer. The plaintiff sought “full recovery allowed by Georgia law, including, but not limited to, damages for past and future pain and suffering, past and future medical expenses, and past and future lost wages.” They did not include any specific dollar amount and that was the fatal mistake.
The city moved to dismiss the plaintiff’s claim based on the fact that her ante litem notice was insufficient. The city argued that the amendment requiring the plaintiff provide a “specific amount of monetary damages” was not met by the plaintiff’s general request for “full recovery allowed by law.”
The court agreed with the city and dismissed the plaintiff’s case for failing to comply with the requirements of the GTCA. The court explained that the statute clearly requires a “specific amount” of damages be plead, and here, the plaintiff failed to provide even a range of damages. Thus, the court rejected the plaintiff’s argument that she substantially complied with the GTCA and dismissed her case.
The court also rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the amendment was unfairly applied to her case because it became law after the accident resulting in her injuries. The court explained that the amendment did not deal with the substantive law governing her claim, but only with the filing requirement of the ante litem notice. Because the amendment was made law prior to the filing of the plaintiff’s ante litem notice, the court’s application of the amendment was not retroactive. What means is, the lawyers had a duty to pay attention to the changing law and to make sure that the ante litem notice they sent complied with the law. Theirs was sent after the law changed, so they lost.
Have You Been Injured in a Georgia Car Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Georgia car accident involving a state or city employee, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through a GTCA claim. Attorney Christopher M. Simon is a dedicated Georgia personal injury and wrongful death attorney with extensive experience handling a wide range of cases. Attorney Simon understands the difficulties injury victims face following a serious accident and takes care to ensure that his clients obtain the compensation they deserve for the injuries they have sustained. To learn more, call Attorney Simon today at (404) 259-7635 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.