Auto accidents happen every day. If you are injured as a passenger on a public bus or as a pedestrian struck by a MARTA bus, the bus driver may be clearly at fault, but even clear liability will not make the claims process easy. Filing a lawsuit against an individual or company is far different from placing a claim against a government entity. Cities, counties, states, and the federal government can all be sued under certain circumstances, but the laws governing such lawsuits require greater scrutiny and care than claims against private entities.
Georgia’s particular state laws have several requirements that will affect an individual attempting to file a claim against a city or town, such as injuries resulting from a public transportation bus accident. The most important difference is that one must give notice of the intent to use, sending it to the proper persons, or the action may be dismissed regardless of negligence.
Georgia requires that an “ante litem” notice be sent within six months of an injury to the governing body of the city against which you are making the claim. Generally, for a city, this would include the mayor and whatever governing agency, such as a city council, who are responsible for the business of the city.
An ante litem notice must include all the information necessary to evaluate your claim, including the date and time of the injury, the extent of the injuries sustained, any alleged liability on the part of the municipality, and any other pertinent information. The letter must be sufficient to allow the municipality to examine your claim fully and decide what action to take.
During the 30 days in which the city has to respond, the statute of limitations, or time allowed to file a lawsuit in a personal injury case, is suspended. The general statute of limitations for personal injury in Georgia is one year, although there are exceptions to this rule. If you are suing a county instead of a municipality, the time limit to send an ante litem notice is extended to 12 months.
Most claims of this type in Georgia are filed against the city of Atlanta because the vast majority of public transportation in Georgia is controlled by MARTA. But even where other municipalities have their own bus services, the same rules apply. The ante litem notice must be sent to the proper authorities or it may be held invalid. It should be sent via certified or registered mail to provide you with proof that you have notified the proper people.
If you are injured in the course of using a publicly provided bus service, you should immediately seek the advice of an attorney to evaluate your claim and make sure all deadlines are met. The process is so complicated that even attorneys sometimes err in filing the notice properly, causing a case to be dismissed before it is even fairly contemplated. Only an experienced attorney can properly prepare the ante litem notice and guide you through the intricacies of suing a municipality.