How to Sue a Governmental Entity in Washington State
In order to bring a civil tort suit to a governmental entity in Washington State, there are steps that must first be carefully taken. This is because of the concept of “governmental immunity.”
In 1961, Washington State waived governmental immunity, and held itself to the same code of conduct and accountability “as if it were a private person or corporation.” RCW 4.92.090. In 1967, the Washington Legislature held local governments to the same standards. RCW 4.96.010.
However, in order to bring a lawsuit for personal injuries or wrongful death, a tort claim form must first be filed with the governmental entity. RCW 4.92.100. There are other pitfalls that can impact your case because sometimes immunity can still be raised as a defense. This includes government claims of “qualified immunity” in police cases and “discretionary immunity” which is often claimed in highway design cases.
We Have Been at the Forefront of Governmental Liability Cases in Washington for Over 50 Years
Through litigating our clients’ cases, we have helped to pave the way for highway design cases in this state. We have specific expertise in establishing the legal responsibility of governments to exercise reasonable care in the design, construction, and maintenance of our roads, highways, and sidewalks. And we have continued to enforce those legal obligations on behalf of our clients injured by the failure of governments to meet that standard.
We have resolved actions against law enforcement, which can be challenging due to the defense of “qualified immunity” to shield officers from liability. In 2021, our work in the Charleena Lyles v. City of Seattle case resulted in an appellate decision that upheld an individual’s right to sue officers for negligence and placed the burden upon the police – not the plaintiff – of proving the “felony defense rule” which could bar a lawsuit.
Cases against governmental entities can be especially challenging. There are minefields and roadblocks. The governments and their insurers have vast resources. The expenses can be considerable. But we consider it a privilege to continue to represent people who have been profoundly injured or killed due to the fault of a governmental entity.