Can You Sue the State of Florida for Personal Injury?
Bill Allen | June 6, 2023 | Personal Injury
It is very common to sue an individual or a company for a personal injury claim. Government tort claims, however, involve a different set of rules and restrictions. Under the principle of sovereign immunity, you cannot sue the government without its permission. In the State of Florida, it is the Florida Tort Claims Act that grants that permission, albeit on a limited basis.
The Rationale Behind Sovereign Immunity
Originally, the doctrine of sovereign immunity was based on the rights of Kings. More recently, its justification is based on the fact that the government gets its money from the taxpayers, which represent a broad cross-section of the citizenry.
The idea is that it is not fair to allow an unrestricted right to sue the government for money damages. By doing so, you are essentially suing every taxpayer in the jurisdiction.
Examples of State Tort Claims
Following are some examples of personal injury claims that you might assert against the Florida state government:
- A car crash in which that at-fault driver was an on-duty employee of a Florida government agency;
- A slip and fall accident in a state-owned building; or
- You are the executor of the probate estate of someone who died of medical malpractice at a Florida government-owned hospital.
These are only a few of dozens of possible examples of personal injury and wrongful death claims that you might assert against a Florida state government agency.
Conditions for Liability
To file a personal injury claim against the state of Florida, you must meet all three of the following conditions:
- Your claim must be based on negligence (carelessness) or on the defendant’s wrongful act or failure to act.
- You are seeking monetary damages, and monetary damages are sufficient to compensate you for your losses.
- The defendant would have been liable if they were a private company or company instead of a government entity or employee.
Even if you meet all three of these conditions, you are not necessarily entitled to proceed with a tort claim against the State of Florida. In addition, your claim must not fall within the limitations that appear below.
The following limitations (among others) apply to personal injury claims against the Florida state government:
- You cannot sue a Florida government employee in their personal capacity unless their wrongdoing was intentional. Instead, you must claim against the Florida government agency that employs them.
- You cannot win more than $200,000 against any single government entity. If you are claiming against more than one government entity, you cannot win more than $300,000. This is a significant limitation if you are filing a claim for a catastrophic injury or a wrongful death.
- You cannot seek punitive damages or pre-judgment interest.
- The Florida government can appeal any adverse trial judgment.
Other limitations apply as well. Florida imposes limitations, for example, on which location in Florida you can sue a state university. Special limitations also apply to claims against the Florida Space Agency, public healthcare providers, and law enforcement agencies.
You must file a Notice of Claim within three years of the accident that produced the injury (or within two years of the victim’s death if you are filing a wrongful death claim). The notice must include the date of the claim, the facts surrounding the accident or incident, and a description of your losses. It must also include your date of birth and your social security number.
You can write up your own claim, or you can fill out the form provided by the Florida Division of Risk Management. At least take a look at the state form to get an idea of which information you should include. You must send the notice to the appropriate state agency involved in your claim, and you must send a copy to the Department of Financial Services. You need to file a paper form by surface mail; an emailed claim form will be insufficient.
The state will investigate your claim for up to 180 days after you file it. You cannot file a lawsuit unless either (i) the state denies your claim before the 180-day period expires or (ii) the 180-day period expires with no response to your claim from the state.
If this condition is met and you file a lawsuit, you must do it within the aforementioned deadline – within three years after an incident that produces a personal injury or within two years after a death that generates a wrongful death claim.
Special Deadline for State Prison Inmates
If you are a Florida state prison inmate, you only have one year to file your notice of claim but three years to file a lawsuit if the state rejects your claim.
Claims Against Florida Local Governments
In Florida, local governments are not autonomous entities. Rather, they are subdivisions of the state government. Nevertheless, you must follow the local procedure of every county or city that you file a claim against. Just as with state agency claims, your claim commences with a written notice of claim.
The appropriate defendant is the local government department in charge of handling claims. This department differs from city to city and from county to county. Check the local government website if you have any doubts.
Federal Tort Claims
The federal government is different from a state government. It has enacted its own legislation, the Federal Tort Claims Act, that allows you to sue a federal government agency for personal injury or wrongful death. This act might apply if, for example, you suffer an injury in a collision with a USPS truck.
Find a Lawyer With Experience Suing the State of Florida
Not every personal injury lawyer has experience suing the State of Florida, but some do. You definitely need to seek a lawyer with that kind of experience. You needn’t worry about money. Almost all personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, meaning that you pay nothing in legal fees unless you get compensation.
Contact Our Gainesville Personal Injury Law Firm in North Central Florida
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