Just like any other person or business, a government entity can be held liable when its action or inaction results in serious injury. However, unlike other personal injury lawsuits, there are strict protocols and deadlines when you bring a claim against the government.
If you fail to meet even one of these requirements, it could sink your claim.
That’s what plaintiff in Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia v. Myers found recently, when the Georgia Supreme Court ruled her failure to strictly comply with notice requirements in the state tort law section pertaining to government defendants was grounds to end the case.
Our Boca Raton personal injury attorneys know that while Georgia law and Florida law may vary slightly in substance, they are both similar in terms of enhanced notice requirements and tighter deadlines with regard to government claims. Our lawyers are experienced in handling injury claims against government entities and the workers they employ.
Some of the primary issues we work to address:
- Shorter statute of limitations. Although Florida has a 4-year statute of limitations on personal injury claims, the time limit for bringing that claim is just three years. Some states even go so far as to require claims within 60 days of injury.
- Stricter Notice Requirements. Unlike an ordinary personal injury claim, you can’t simply file a lawsuit against the government in court. You have to file what’s called a “Notice of Claim.” If this record doesn’t strictly adhere to the requirements, your case will be dismissed. After you file this notice, you have to wait a period of time before filing the lawsuit. But if you wait too long, the claim could be thrown out.
- Government immunity. While government immunity is less broad than in years’ past, it still exists in certain circumstances. You need to know whether you’re wasting your time, of if you have a valid claim before you proceed.
In the Myers case, a university student was injured when she stepped in a large pothole on a campus parking lot. She received emergency medical treatment, follow-up orthopedic care and ongoing physical therapy.
Within six months of injury, she issued a Notice of Claim letter to the university’s department of administrative services. Because the university is state-funded, it falls under the umbrella of “government agency.” In her notice, she asserted negligence by the university due to unsafe conditions in the parking lot. The document indicated the fall caused her to suffer an ankle fracture and torn tendons.
Here was her mistake: She failed to indicate the exact cost of her injury, as she knew it at that time.
Instead, she indicated that the amount of losses was “yet to be determined” as she was not yet aware of the full extent of her injury and was still incurring medical bills.
The university responded by sending a letter to the student’s attorney acknowledging receipt of the notice, and requesting documentation of medical bills, reports and verification that she’d lost wages. Her attorney failed to respond.
A full year later, the university sent a follow-up letter requesting the same records and demanding settlement within the month. Her attorney responded with a demand for $110,000 to settle claims. The university countered with an offer closer to $10,000.
At that point, the student filed a lawsuit seeking damages for medical expenses, lost earning capacity and pain and suffering.
The university moved to dismiss, asserting the Notice of Claim failed to specifically note the amount of losses, and therefore did not comply with state tort statutes.
Trial court granted this request. The appellate court reversed, holding the notice was sufficient. However, the Georgia Supreme Court reversed that ruling.
With the statute of limitations expired, she can not bring another lawsuit, and she will not be able to collect damages. Had she strictly adhered to the requirements regarding Notice of Claim, this case might have turned out differently.
If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at (888) 751-7770 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.
Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia v. Myers , Oct. 6, 2014, Georgia Supreme Court
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McNamee v. Hillsborough – Florida Student Athlete Head Injury Prompts Lawsuit, Oct. 20, 2014, Boca Raton Personal Injury Attorney Blog