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Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit Against the State of Florida

Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit Against the State of Florida

Suing the Florida government for personal injury is different from suing a private party. Although you can file such a claim and win under the right circumstances, you must do so under the terms established by the state.

Sovereign Immunity

“Sovereign immunity” is an ancient legal concept that used to mean “the king can do no wrong.” Now, it simply means that you cannot sue a government for monetary damages without that government’s consent. The Florida Tort Claims Act is the law that gives you permission to sue the State of Florida over a personal injury or wrongful death claim.

Nevertheless, the Florida government places special obstacles to filing personal injury claims against it or one of its subdivisions. After all, if the State of Florida pays you monetary damages, that money comes from the Florida State Treasury

Where does the treasury get its money? Mostly from the pockets of John Q. Taxpayer. This means that if you sue the State of Florida, you are essentially suing all Florida taxpayers, perhaps even including yourself. 

Examples of Tort Claims Against the State of Florida

Following are some typical examples of accidents that generate tort claims against governments:

  • Car accident injuries caused by a Florida state employee who was on a work-related errand.
  • A wrongful death caused by someone who died because of medical malpractice that occurred at a state hospital (the decedent’s estate executor must file the claim).
  • An unjustified dog attack by a police dog employed by the Florida State Police.
  • A construction accident that occurred because of a dangerous condition on state-owned land. If the victim was on duty at the time of the accident but not an employee of the State of Florida, they can file a personal injury lawsuit.

Space limitations do not permit a complete list of possible personal injury claims against the Florida government.

Preconditions for Florida Government Personal Injury Liability

You must establish the following three facts before you will be eligible for personal injury compensation from the State of Florida:

  • Your claim must be based on negligence or on the defendant’s wrongful behavior. In other words, you cannot file a “strict liability” claim. You must allege that the defendant was at fault in some way.
  • You are seeking monetary damages. Money damages must be sufficient to compensate you for your injury. The law generally considers monetary damages enough to compensate victims for just about any personal injury, including the death of a loved one.
  • The individual defendant would have been liable for damages even if they had been a private individual or company. In other words, your assertion of liability cannot be based on the fact that the defendant is a government entity. The defendant’s identity as a government entity must be incidental to your claim.

You cannot file a claim asking a court to do anything more than demand that the Florida government pay you damages.

Miscellaneous Government Tort Claim Limitations

Your claim is also subject to the limitations that appear below:

  • You cannot sue the State of Florida for punitive damages.
  • You cannot sue an individual Florida state government employee unless their actions were intentional. In other words, you must sue a Florida state government entity, not an individual. 
  • Your claim (economic damages plus non-economic damages) cannot exceed $200,000 if you are suing a single government entity. If you are suing more than one entity, your claim cannot exceed an aggregate of $300,000.
  • Special rules apply to claims against state universities, the Florida Space Agency, and law enforcement agencies such as the state police.

Florida can appeal any judgment that a court issues against it. So can you, if you have grounds to do so.

Claim Procedure

To initiate your claim, you’ll first need to provide notice to the government. This may be done by filling out and submitting one of the forms provided by the Florida Division of Risk Management. You can also prepare your own documentation as long as it contains complete information about your claim. Your notice must include:

  • The date that the claim arose; 
  • The basic facts surrounding the accident; 
  • A description of your damages; and
  • Your name, date of birth, and social security number.

Check the state-provided forms for any other information you might need to include.

Delivering Notice of Your Claim

You must provide notice to the appropriate state entity. You must also send a copy to the Department of Financial Services. Both of these documents must be sent by paper mail. Email is insufficient, although you can send an email in addition if you want to. 

Deadline for Providing Notice of Your Claim

The deadline for filing a claim against the Florida government is generally three years after the accident or incident that generated your claim. If you are the executor of a probate estate filing a wrongful death claim, you have until two years after the victim’s death to file your Statement of Claim.

The State Investigation

Florida has the right to investigate your claim for up to 180 days before responding. Once they receive your notice, the investigation will begin. If they reject your claim before 180 days pass, you can file a lawsuit immediately. If 180 days pass with neither acceptance nor rejection, you can file a lawsuit as soon as the 180-day period passes.

On the other hand, Florida might respond with a counteroffer. If they do, you can try to negotiate a settlement with them. Beware of the statute of limitations deadline for filing a lawsuit, however. You can break off negotiations and file a lawsuit as long as the statute of limitations deadline for your case has not passed.

Claims Against Florida Local Governments

Florida local governments are subdivisions of the state government. More or less, the same rules apply to claims against local governments as apply to the state government and its subdivisions. Each local government, however, has its own office where it requires you to send your notice of claim.

Recent Changes in Florida Personal Injury Law

In 2023, Florida passed sweeping changes in its personal injury compensation system. Some of the wording of these changes has not yet been interpreted by the courts at the time of this writing. 

Contact your lawyer for more details to see if these changes might pertain to your case. Pay particular attention to the statute of limitations deadline as it applies to the particular circumstances of your situation.

An Initial Consultation With a St. Petersburg Personal Injury Lawyer Probably Won’t Cost You a Dime

If you believe you might have a personal injury claim against the State of Florida, schedule a free initial consultation with a local personal injury lawyer. Since suing the government is significantly different from suing a private party, you should seek a lawyer with prior experience with the specific type of lawsuit you need to file.

Contact the St. Petersburg Personal Injury Law Firm of Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers for Help Today

For more information, please contact Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer in St. Petersburg today. We have five convenient locations in Florida, including Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg, New Port Richey, and Lakeland.

We proudly serve Hillsborough County, Pinellas County, Pasco County, Polk County, and its surrounding areas:

Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers – Tampa Office
601 W Swann Ave, Tampa, FL 33606
(813) 223-6200

Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers – Clearwater Office
600 Bypass Dr Suite 224-D, Clearwater, FL 33764
(727) 493-4418

Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers – St. Petersburg Office
111 2nd Ave NE Suite 350, St. Petersburg, FL 33701
(727) 314-5988

Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers – New Port Richey Office
5006 Trouble Creek Rd Unit #200, Port Richey, FL 34652
(727) 910-5060

Winters & Yonker Personal Injury Lawyers – Lakeland Office
1543 Lakeland Hills Blvd Suite 18, Lakeland, FL 33805
(863) 251-6196

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