Ask a government agency to pay you

Before you can sue a government agency, you must ask them for the money you think they owe by turning in an administrative claim

Before you start

Figure out your deadline

Before you can sue a government agency, you must ask them for the money you think they owe by turning in an administrative claim. There are strict deadlines to turn your claim into the agency.

If the agency doesn't answer or doesn't agree to pay you after you turn in your claim, there are also strict deadlines (statutes of limitation) to start your case against them in small claims court.

Find the right name of the agency

Figure out the name of the California government agency you're planning to sue. You cannot sue the federal government in small claims court. 

Examples of California government agencies:

  • State

    • DMV 

    • State colleges and universities

    • Department of Child Support Services

    • Franchise Tax Board

  • County or City

    • Schools

    • Bus or light rail agencies

    • Law enforcement agencies 

How to turn in a claim

  • Fill out claim form

    Find the claim form for the government agency you're asking to pay you. Many have them online.

    • If you're suing the State of California: You can find information on how to submit claims on the Government Claims Program website.
    • If you're suing a city or county: Contact the city or county agency to find out how to send in your claim.
  • Send in claim by deadline

    Send your claim to the government agency within:

    • 6 months from the injury if you are suing about an injury to you or damage to something you own
    • 1 year from the date a contract was broken or your real estate was damaged

    There are exceptions. Review California Government Code section 905 and section 911.2 or talk to a lawyer.

  • Get back government response

    The government has 45 days to get back to you about your claim.

    • If the government denies your claim, you have 6 months from the date they mailed the rejection to file your small claims case.
    • If the government doesn't respond by the 45-day deadline, you generally have up to 2 years to start a case from the injury date, but you should think about filing your claim right away.

    If you aren't 100% clear about your deadline to file, talk to a lawyer. The deadlines for government claims can be especially confusing.

success alert banner:

Have a question about Small claims?

Look for a "Chat Now" button in the right bottom corner of your screen. If you don’t see it, disable any pop-up/ad blockers on your browser.