Claim Filed in Death of Junior Lifeguard

As was expected, the family of a Huntington Beach junior lifeguard who was accidentally killed during camp when she was run over by a lifeguard boat has filed a claim against the City of Huntington Beach. The claim alleges that Huntington Beach lifeguard Greg Crow, the boat operator, was negligent, and that his negligence caused Alyssa Squirrell’s death. As was blogged about here, Alyssa died during a training drill where the junior lifeguards would jump off the back of the rescue boat near the surfline.

The filing of a claim is not a lawsuit, but a precursor to a lawsuit. Under California law, anytime a person wants to file a law against any governmental entity, whether a city, county, or any other public agency, it must first file a claim against the public entity, and the claim must be denied. In addition, the claim must be filed within 6 months of the incident. If the claim is not filed within six months, the person is usually barred from filing a lawsuit.

This requirement, which places an unfair burden on claimants, is often confusing for claimants. For example, if Alyssa Squirrell was killed by a private boater, not a city employee, her family would have up to two years to file a wrongful death case against the boater. Since the prospective defendant is the City of Huntington Beach, they must first file the claim referenced above, then will be permitted to file a lawsuit once the claim is denied (which is what Huntington Beach will do). After the claim is denied, the family will have six months. So while California has a two-year statute of limitations in most personal injury claims, it is usually one year in cases involving public entities.

The Squirrell case is just a plain tragedy. By all accounts the boat operator was an excellent lifeguard, who, for just a moment, acted negligently.


Walton Law Firm represents personal injury victims throughout San Diego County in cases involving negligent conduct, including car accidents, pedestrian accidents, medical malpractice, motorcycle accidents, uninsured motorist claims, defective products, construction accidents, slip and fall injuries, dog bites, and insurance disputes. Call (760) 607-1325 for a free consultation.

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