Most often, a person must file a written claim with the city before filing a lawsuit. This process is in place to give the city an opportunity to investigate and evaluate potential claims and to afford the city the opportunity to compromise and budget for potential settlement or litigation.
When a claim is filed, that starts the following process:
- The common council refers the claim to the city attorney.
- The city attorney determines the best way to investigate the claim, which often includes contacting various city departments that may have information to support or refute the claim
- Once the city attorney receives a response from all departments, the city attorney reviews the facts and law and then determines whether the city is liable on the claim.
- If the claim contains a description of the damages sought, the city attorney's office will usually contact the claimant with a decision to admit liability, deny liability, or discuss settlement. The claimant will receive a phone call, email, or letter.
- If the claim does not state the damages sought, the claim is incomplete and will not be processed.
- If the city attorney has not responded to your completed claim within 120 days, state law automatically categorizes your claim as denied.
The claims process has a few important requirements, so you may wish to discuss your claim with an attorney who can represent you to ensure that you follow the law when filing your claim. The city attorney represents the city's interests and cannot help you fill out the form or advise you on the merits of your claim.