Yakima County Sued for Alleged Guardrail Failure
Please note, our law firm took no part in the lawsuit described in this article.
A Yakima County driver lost control of his vehicle, striking a guardrail. The guardrail split and pierced the passenger cabin, injuring two passengers. One of the passengers pursued a claim against the County.
The passenger through an attorney (not affiliated with this firm) filed a claim form, as is required by Washington law. The County moved to dismiss, arguing that the government tort claim form as completed by the passenger’s attorney did not comply with statutory requirements. The trial court agreed and dismissed the claim on this procedural defense.
All persons making a tort claim against the state of Washington or local government in Washington must file a tort claim before filing a lawsuit. A tort claim is a civil wrong, including personal injury claims. A failure to file an adequate tort claim is fatal to the personal injury lawsuit, which will be dismissed, regardless of the merits of the underlying claim.
The Washington Court of Appeals reversed. The Court noted that the standard is substantial compliance, which requires “that the claimant make a ‘bona fide attempt to comply with the law” and that the notice filed does give actual, if technically deficient, notice.
The purpose of the claim-filing statute is “to provide local governments with
notice of potential tort claims, the identity of the claimant, and general information
about the claim.” The claim form in question achieved this purpose.
A failure to properly and timely complete a claim form may mean you personal injury case is lost forever. If you believe you have a potential claim against a government entity you should seek the advice of an attorney.
 Paullus v. Yakmia County( unpublished opinions, No. 29073-5-III).