Auto accident lawsuits typically involve an injured party and an opposing motorist. Sometimes that injured party is also a motorist, but they could also be a pedestrian, cyclist, or something similar. These types of crashes are most commonly due to driver negligence – speeding, running red lights, driving while distracted, and so on.
Not all accidents work this way, though. Sometimes, external factors may contribute to the car crash. Factors such as defective parts – or even poor road conditions.
In that latter situation, you might find yourself pointing fingers at a government entity in order to get the compensation you deserve – but can you really sue the state of Florida for bad roads and other issues that lead to accidents?
The short answer is yes. Government negligence may have a hand in your car crash, and just like any other person or organization that causes financial damages, they may owe you compensation for their negligence. However, actually filing and winning your case involves a process that varies slightly from typical auto accident lawsuits.
How Government Negligence in Florida Can Cause Car Crashes
Local and state governments have committees and rules that help to keep the roads safe, but sometimes mistakes are made. Negligence occurs. When this negligence results in an accident, there may be grounds for filing a lawsuit.
Government negligence is usually found in the following scenarios:
Negligence in Addressing Road Conditions
Say there’s a pothole in the road. If the road is public and owned by a government entity, it is their responsibility to fill that pothole and keep the road safe. (After all, why else would we pay tolls and taxes that are supposed to go to infrastructure?) Procrastination may cost the government money if the pothole is the cause of someone’s auto accident.
The government may also have road-specific duties during bad weather. A government entity may be in charge of addressing frozen roads, for example, or (more commonly in Florida) roads that are filled with fallen debris after a storm. Failing to address these situations may result in poor road conditions that result in car crashes.
Construction sites may cause unsafe road conditions or increase the risk of running into hazards. If the construction workers are under contract with the government and cause an accident, state or local agencies may have to foot the bill for the resulting damages.
Negligence of Individual Driver (Government Employee)
Government negligence may be the result of an individual person’s actions. If a government employee is driving a car or a bus while they are working and causes an accident, the government may be liable for the resulting damages. (This does not apply to government employees who cause an accident during their free time, however. They will be the defendant, and you would file a lawsuit against them like any other person.)
How to Know Who Is at Fault for Your Florida Car Crash
Government negligence isn’t always easy to spot. In some cases that involve external factors, a construction company or an auto manufacturer may not be at fault. If, for example, a construction site is not properly marked, it may be the fault of individual employees or the governing body that enforces how construction sites are marked.
Bottom line? The defendant in your case may not always be obvious. If you have been involved in a car crash that is not your fault, you should reach out to a Florida personal injury lawyer who has had success in holding the government responsible for auto accident injuries. They will be able to help you ascertain who is responsible for your car accident and what steps are necessary to take in order to get compensation.
How to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit against the Government in Florida
Again, holding the government accountable for your auto accident is different than holding an individual person accountable. When you file a lawsuit against an individual, their insurance company will usually get involved. This isn’t the case when you are suing the government.
Here’s how personal injury lawsuits against city, county, or state governments work in the state of Florida:
Filing a Notice to Claim
Before you can file any sort of lawsuit against the government, you will have to file a claim with your insurance company. Once you have filed the claim, you will have to notify the government. Florida requires that you send this notice to the Florida Department of Financial Services, but other people or entities may also have to receive the claim. If the Notice is not filed correctly or to the right people, you may not be able to file a lawsuit at all.
Statute of Limitations
Once the claim is filed, you may still have to wait to file a lawsuit against the government. Florida requires that plaintiffs must wait 180 days for the investigation period to finish before they can file a lawsuit. (If the claim is denied, plaintiffs can move forward with their case.)
The statute of limitations in these types of cases is three years after the date of your accident. However, the statute is limited to two years if you are filing a wrongful death claim, or if you are suing the federal government.
Through every step of the process, make sure that you consult a lawyer. Filing a lawsuit against the government can be a tedious procedure, but it is the best chance you have at receiving the compensation you need and deserve after a serious auto injury.
About the Author:
Andrew Winston is a partner at the personal injury law firm of Winston Law. For over 20 years, he has successfully represented countless people in all kinds of personal injury cases, with a particular focus on child injury, legal malpractice, and premises liability. He has been recognized for excellence in the representation of injured clients by admission to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum, is AV Preeminent Rated by the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, enjoys a 10.0 rating by AVVO as a Top Personal Injury Attorney, has been selected as a Florida “SuperLawyer” from 2011-2017 – an honor reserved for the top 5% of lawyers in the state – and was voted to Florida Trend’s ”Legal Elite” and as one of the Top 100 Lawyers in Florida and one of the Top 100 Lawyers in the Miami area for 2015, 2016, and 2017.