Government Torts – When the Government Causes Injury To You
In Florida, suing the government for liability for an injury that they cause is not easy but is not impossible. There are some attorneys who won’t even do it. Chances are that you will need professional legal help with your personal injury or medical malpractice claim against a governmental entity should you have a claim. If a government entity is responsible for your injury, you should contact a Lakeland personal injury attorney for a free consultation.
Many of these available claims may be brought against:
- a city or municipality
- a county
- local sheriff
- local school board
- the state and all state agencies
- the federal government and all of its agencies
- the United States Postal Service (USPS)
- the Veterans Administration (VA) including hospitals for medical malpractice
Pre-Suit and Procedural Requirements In Florida Government Tort Cases
In section 768.28, Florida Statutes, there is a procedure for notifying the governmental entity responsible for your damages, including a pre-suit notice letter sent by certified mail return receipt requested. There are also additional rules of procedure that apply to cases against governmental entities including an extending time to respond to a lawsuit that you file. It is important to consult with personal injury attorney with experience bringing these claims so that your claim survives all of the legal hoops that you must jump through in order to sue the government and not miss something that is important to your claim.
An attorney can help you with bring your case against the government.
Limits on Claims Against Governmental Entities in Florida
Some governmental entities in Florida have insurance to cover their statutory exposure while others do not. For the governmental entities that are not covered by insurance, the funds to pay claims generally comes out of the entities own taxpayer supported funds. Even if the governmental entity has insurance exceeding the statutory limits of $200,000 per claim and $300,000 in the aggregate (the statutory limits used to be $100,000 per claim and $200,000 in the aggregate), the entity is only liable for the amount of the statutory limit unless a “claims bill” is voted on and approved by the Florida Legislature. Regardless, there is nothing wrong with the use of taxpayer money to pay damages to people who have been legitimately damaged by a wrong committed by the government.
In addition, Florida law limits attorney fees to 25% in cases against the government as a disincentive to pursue these cases.
The Florida Legislature Must Approve Larger Awards
In order to collect on a “claims bill” in excess of the statutory sovereign immunity limits, you will need to take your case all the way through a jury verdict before submitting your claims bill to the Legislature. The Legislature tends to reserve claims bills for some of the most compelling cases out there. If you have a serious injury or a wrongful death claim, you will have to decide with the help of your attorney whether to pursue a trial or to accept a settlement.
Federal Claims Are Different Than State Claims
If your injury is the result of negligence or legal liability of the federal government or federal agency, your claim is governed by the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). Generally speaking, you are required in FTCA cases to file a Form 95 with the governmental entity or agency within two years of the date that legal liability accrued. This two year statute of limitation is true regardless of whether there is a state statute of limitation for the same cause of action that is longer.
FTCA Prerequisites and Statute of Limitations
Further, with FCTA cases, the governmental entity has up to six months to review your Form 95 claim and you are not allowed to file your claim during that time. If the entity does not respond to your claim with an offer or denial within the six month period, then your claim is presumed denied when the six month period expires.
Please note that you only have six months to file your lawsuit in a FTCA case after a governmental entity has issued a denial on your claim. Failure to file suit within six months of being denied results in your claim being completely barred EVEN IF IT HAS BEEN LESS THAN TWO YEARS SINCE THE EVENT CAUSING YOUR INJURY.
How To File Your FTCA Case
Your FTCA case starts when you “present your claim” to the agency involved. This is done by filing the Form 95.
You must also research specific procedures and rules applicable to the governmental entity or agency in which you are making a claim against. These rules include not only how to bring your claim but also where your notice should be sent and who you should communicate with regarding your claim. Many federal agencies will post this information in a section on their respective websites.
Unlike the State of Florida where damages against the state are capped, Federal Tort Claims are not capped. Therefore, your Federal Tort Claim case may have significant value. In the Form 95 itself, there is a blank for the amount of damages that you have sustained. You must put a number, however, you should be careful not to underestimate the value of your claim. Once you have filed a Form 95 with a figure for your damages on it, you cannot increase the amount you claim later.
Attorney fees on FTCA cases are 25% if the case is litigated while attorney fees are only 20% if the case is settled. No fee can be charged for appeals of FTCA cases. Again, the purpose is to remove some financial incentive to sue the government but it does not make it impossible or not worthwhile.
Hire a Lawyer Who Has Sued the Government Before
If you or someone you know has been injured or damaged to the negligence of a governmental entity, please contact a personal injury attorney with Russo Law We have the experience suing governmental entities to assist you with your claim.
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For recent legal topics, please see our personal injury blog or read our answers to frequently asked questions. We help clients located in Polk County, including Lakeland, Winter Haven, Bartow, and Haines City, Florida with bring a lawsuit against the responsible government entity or subdivision for negligence and legal liability.