4 Need to Know Rules Before You Sue The City of Jacksonville.
This blog is in addition to my previous post titled "Can I Sue the City of Jacksonville or the Sheriff's Office".
There are several important requirements and rules to follow when pursing a claim against the state or city. This article will address 4 of those that I believe to be very important for any potential litigant to consider.
1. Required Notice
Fla. Stat. 768.28(6)(a) states "An action may not be instituted on a claim against the state or one of it's agencies or subdivisions unless the claimant presents the claim in writing to the appropriate agency, and also,....presents such claim in writing to the Department of Financial Services..."
The purpose of the statute is so the city, state and/or agencies are provided adequate notice of a claim. This notice is often provided by writing a letter and providing the required information, including:
- The claimant's name, date and place of birth and social security number.
- The wrongful or negligent act.
- The time or date and location of the act.
- The injuries suffered.
This notice is a requirement and must be provided before an action can be filed in court. The city, state and/or agencies have 6 months to respond to the notice, if they deny the claim then you can move forward with filing an action in court. If no response is provided after 6 months then you can move forward with filing an action in court.
So, rule #1 to remember is to provide written notice to the required parties and allow at least 6 months to pass, unless you are told the claim is denied, before you file a lawsuit in the appropriate court.
2. Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations is the time a person has to file an action (lawsuit). In a lawsuit against the state or city, you have to provided the required notice of claim discussed above within 3 years after such claim accrues. A cause of action for personal injuries accrues when the plaintiff knew or should have known of either the injury or the date of the negligent or wrongful act. This rule is not always as clear cut as it appears and you would be advised to contact an attorney as quickly as possible so you do not lose your right to file a lawsuit. The 3 year statute of limitations is specific to a lawsuit against the state or city and is not the same as for suits against private citizens or companies. In addition, in a wrongful death action against the state or city, the statute of limitations is only 2 years.
3. Damages Recoverable
There is also, of course, a limit to how much you can recover in a lawsuit against the state or city. Fla. Stat. 768.28(5) states:
The state and its agencies and subdivisions shall be liable for tort claims in the same manner and to the same extent as a private individual under like circumstances, but liability shall not include punitive damages or interest for the period before judgment. Neither the state nor its agencies or subdivisions shall be liable to pay a claim or a judgment by any one person which exceeds the sum of $200,000 or any claim or judgment, or portions thereof, which, when totaled with all other claims or judgments paid by the state or its agencies or subdivisions arising out of the same incident or occurrence, exceeds the sum of $300,000.
This means the most you can recover is $200,000, and possibly another $100,000 if there are dependents. For example, if your loved one is run over by a city bus and the bus driver is clearly negligent, you can only recover $200,000, maybe $300,000, no matter the injuries or life long medical care that may be necessary.
Doesn't sound fair does it. It isn't, but it is the current law.
There are of course some avenues to recover more. Using the same example above, let's say your loved one goes to trial and receives a jury verdict for $2 million dollars. A person may think, ok now we have the money we need. But that is not the case. A verdict over the statutory limit has to be presented to the legislature in what is called a claims bill. The statue allow for the legislature to take specific action and allow the excess amount to be paid out. As you can imagine this process can take years and unfortunately is not always successful, leaving the injured again with only the limited amount allowed by statute.
Another avenue to pursue in a lawsuit is a settlement, providing that the city or agency has an insurance policy with limits higher than the $200,000 statutory limit. Again using the example above, if the city had an insurance policy that covered $1 million dollars for bus accidents and your loved one settled their case for $1 million to be paid by the insurance company, then there would not have to be legislative action and your loved one could recover over the $200,000 limit.
As your case develops, your attorney will be able to view any relevant insurance policies to see if a possible higher settlement is available.
4. Attorneys' Fees
Fees are a very important subject to discuss with your attorney and there are numerous statutory guidelines as to how much of a verdict or settlement an attorney can claim. You should be provided with all of this information so you understand exactly what to expect when your case is resolved.
In an action against the state or city no attorney may charge, demand, receive, or collect, for services rendered, fees in excess of 25% of any judgment or settlement. This percentage is lower than a lawsuit against private citizens or companies. If an attorney says different, please show them Fla. Stat. 768.28(8).
If You Have Any Questions Regarding A Lawsuit Against the City of Jacksonville or the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office
Please contact Clifton Law Office, you can reach me at my contact page online or call me directly at 904-209-4883.