Can I Sue the Government for Personal Injury in Florida?
In the state of Florida, if you are injured as a result of someone else’s carelessness or negligence through a car accident or a slip and fall, you have the option of filing a personal injury lawsuit to recover compensation for your losses. However, claimants injured by the negligence of the government or any of its employees in Florida will require to follow a different set of rules.

The Florida Statutes section 768.28 deals with claims filed against the state that is inclusive of the agencies and subdivisions. This very law enables the State of Florida to waive its right to sovereign immunity and to agree to be sued for certain torts stated in the act.

“Sovereign immunity” is referred to a common-law rule that has been followed from back in the centuries in Great Britain, where private individuals could not sue the king. This held true even if they were injured by the King’s acts or decisions. U.S. had adopted this rule of sovereign immunity. However, under certain exceptional circumstances; states have chosen to waive this right. This has enabled citizens to seek compensation for wrongs committed by the government.

In the state of Florida, a person who is injured by the government or a government employee may file an injury claim if:

  • the injury was caused by negligence or a wrongful act or omission; such incidents involve car accidents and medical negligence
  • the claimant’s losses can be compensated with monetary damages; this covers most negligence cases
  • the circumstances are such that the negligent party would have been liable as a private party

The truth is that the Florida statute does impose certain limitations on the kinds of claims that injured parties can bring. For example:

  • Punitive damages or interest that might have resulted before the judgment was made cannot be awarded in cases against the Florida government.
  • Government employees cannot be held personally responsible for harm, unless they caused the harm intentionally. Instead, all claims must be filed against the government body or agency that employs them.
  • Damages in cases against Florida’s government do not exceed $200,000, or $300,000 total if the claim is against multiple state entities.
  • The state may appeal any resolution of the case.
  • Actions against state universities must be introduced in the county where the university’s campus is located, unless the university has a “substantial presence” in the county where the harm occurred.

In certain other cases, additional limitations might prevail. They include cases that are filed against law enforcement officers or agencies, public health agencies including public hospitals, and the Florida Space Agency, cases that originate from inmates of the Florida Department of Corrections etc.

You must put the state agency involved in the claim and the state’s Department of Financial Services on notice of the claim, in writing, when you are injured by the state government in Florida. This should be done within three years of the occurrence of the underlying incident. Keep in mind that no lawsuit can be filed until after a 180 day investigation period. However, this might not apply if the claim is formally denied.

You can mail a letter describing the date, facts, and losses. Also, you can use one of the optional claim forms available from the Florida Division of Risk Management. Keep in mind that the notice of claim must be provided on paper. Remember that an emailed notice will not be enough to do the job, as per the Division of Risk Management.

When the claim is denied, a personal injury against the government in Florida must be filed within three years of the date of injury. In case the claim is a wrongful death claim, it must be filed within a couple of years. As far as the inmates of the Florida Department of Corrections are concerned, they have one year to give written notice of their claim and three years in which to file the lawsuit itself.

Just like in case of the claims against the state, claims against local governments in Florida need to start with notice, in writing, of what happened. This notice needs to be sent to the local government department in charge of handling claims. Florida counties and municipalities usually include this information on their websites.

Keep in mind that Florida law has specific notice requirements for any claim against governmental agencies. Usually, the mayor or other leader of a governmental subdivision or agency is placed on notice by letter. The Department of Financial Services for the state of Florida is also placed on notice of any personal injury claims. The format of these notice letters is important. The letter must include the place of birth and the date of birth for the claimant as well as a Social Security number or federal identification number if the claimant is not a person. The claimant also needs to state whether there are any judgments find the load by the claimant to the agency or subdivisions. In case there is no prior unpaid adjudicated claim for more than $200 then the notice letter must state so on behalf of the claimant.

If the notice letter meets the statutory requirements as to content and the proper agency is placed on notice, then the targeted governmental agency has six months to consider the claim.

In almost every personal injury case, there is a statute of limitations. This implies that you have a certain amount of time between when an accident takes place and when you sue for whatever injury occurred as a result of said incident. In common personal injury cases against companies or individuals, you will typically have up to four years to file a lawsuit if you are a victim. If suing a state or municipality, city or county, your time to act is reduced. In the state of Florida, you have three years from the time an accident occurs to place the appropriate agencies on notice. While suing a municipality or government, there can be limits on the types of personal injury claims you can make.