Olympia, Washington


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Ryan Nute
Ryan Nute
Contributor •

Tort Claims Against the State of Washington

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You may be surprised to learn that the historical rule was that citizens could not sue their government for its negligent acts. The doctrine was called “sovereign immunity.” While the limitations imposed by sovereign immunity have eroded considerably, there are still procedural hurdles today to filing a negligence claim against the State of Washington.

As a procedural matter, all negligence and tort claims against the State must be presented to the Office of Risk Management. The claim forms must contain all of the information required by statute. The claimant must wait sixty days for the State to evaluate the claim before filing suit.

The rationale for the waiting period is so the State can evaluate the claim and decide whether to negotiate or pay it. In my experience, the State simply never responds. In practice, the claims filing is more often used by the State as a weapon to deny claims that are not properly filed.

The claim filing requirements contain a number of traps for the unwary. If in doubt, you should consult a lawyer about your negligence or tort claim against the State of Washington.