Let’s say that you have a dispute with a public entity or agency. Maybe you had a contract with a county, and it breached. Maybe you were hit by a city bus and badly injured. In either case, Arizona Revised Statute § 12-821.01 requires that any person with a claim against a public entity or a public employee file a Notice of Claim within 180 days after the injury occurs. If you fail to file a Notice of Claim within this time period, your claim will be barred and can never be litigated. The statute has the effect of shortening the statute of limitations period if you fail to timely give notice of a claim.
A Notice of Claim must be filed with the individual authorized to accept service on behalf of the public entity or employee. Serving a Notice of Claim is not the filing of a lawsuit. Its purpose is to inform public entities of the possibility of a lawsuit. In addition, it puts the entity on notice of the basis of liability for the claim, a specific amount for which the claim can be settled, and the facts supporting that amount. Once the Notice of Claim requirements are met, the entity can settle for the demanded amount for 60 days. If the claim is not settled within that time, the injured party is permitted to file a lawsuit. It is also critical to file all lawsuits against public entities and employees within one year after the cause of actions accrues. If not, then the statute of limitations will likely bar your claim.
Sometimes you may not discover that you have been injured right away. Arizona’s Notice of Claim statute provides that the 180-day time period begins to run when you realize you have been damaged and know or reasonably should know the cause, source, act, event, instrumentality or condition that caused the damage. For example, if you and your family drank contaminated tap water for several years before discovering that it was causing cancer, you would have 180 days from the date of that discovery in which to file a Notice of Claim against the public entity charged with managing your community’s water supply. In essence, claims against government entities have strict procedural requirements for you to pursue them. You should investigate your claim and seek the advice of an attorney as early as possible.