In Florida, as in every state, if you are injured as a result of someone else's carelessness or negligence -- through a car accident or a slip and fall, for example -- you always have the option of filing a personal injury lawsuit to get compensation for your losses. But what if it was a city bus that hit you, or what if that broken linoleum you tripped on was in a state-owned building? Claimants injured by the negligence of the government or one of its employees in Florida will need to play by a different set of rules, at least initially. Read on for the details.
Florida Statutes section 768.28 governs claims filed against the state (including its “agencies and subdivisions”). Via this law, the State of Florida waives its right to sovereign immunity and agrees to be sued for certain torts listed in the act. "Sovereign immunity" is a common-law rule that dates back centuries, to Great Britain, where private individuals could not sue the king, even if they were injured by the King's (or the kingdom's) acts or decisions. The rule of sovereign immunity was adopted in the U.S. But states have also chosen to selectively waive this right (at least under certain circumstances) and allow citizens to seek compensation for wrongs committed by the government.
Learn more about Negligence and Fault for an Accident.
In Florida, a person who is injured by the government or a government employee may file an injury claim if:
However, the Florida statute does impose certain limitations on the kinds of claims that injured parties can bring. For instance:
Additional limitations apply to cases filed against law enforcement officers or agencies, public health agencies (including public hospitals), and the Florida Space Agency. Claims that come from inmates of the Florida Department of Corrections are also subject to special time limits.
If you are injured by the state government in Florida, 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, within three years of the occurrence of the underlying incident, and no lawsuit can be filed until after a 180 day investigation period, unless the claim is formally denied.
A letter describing the date, facts, and losses can be mailed, or you can use one of the optional claim forms available from the Florida Division of Risk Management.
The notice of claim must be provided on paper. An emailed notice will not be considered sufficient, according to the Division of Risk Management.
If the claim is denied, a personal injury suit against the government in Florida must be filed within three years of the date of injury. If the claim is a wrongful death claim, however, it must be filed within two years.
Inmates of the Florida Department of Corrections have one year to give written notice of their claim and three years in which to file the lawsuit itself.
Learn more about the Claims Process (from Florida's Division of Risk Management).
But what if you are injured by a county or municipal agency or employee?
Just like claims against the state, claims against local governments in Florida must start with notice, in writing, of what happened. This notice should be sent to the local government department in charge of handling claims. Florida counties and municipalities frequently include this information on their websites. For instance, both Orlando and Miami explain on their respective websites how to file a claim.