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Fort Lauderdale Personal Injury Lawyer > Blog > Personal Injury > Can I File a Personal Injury Claim for Injuries in a Public Place in Florida?

Can I File a Personal Injury Claim for Injuries in a Public Place in Florida?

public injury claim in Florida

Accidents remain one of the leading causes of death and disability in the US, but it is reassuring to know that you have legal remedies under Florida law. When another person or entity engages in careless, reckless, or intentional misconduct, you can pursue the at-fault party for monetary damages. However, you might not understand important distinctions based upon the underlying circumstances of the accident. Some spaces are private and owned by individuals, while others are open to the community. Fortunately, liability laws do allow you to file a personal injury claim for injuries sustained in a public place in Florida.

It is reassuring to know that you have rights as a victim, but there are complications with these cases. When the scene of the accident is in a public place, you could be dealing with a government entity tasked with managing the premises. The government does enjoy certain protections under the law, so it may raise multiple defenses in an effort to defeat your claim.


Because of the complexities, you could put your rights at risk unless you have experienced legal representation on your side. A Florida personal injury attorney will protect your interests throughout the process when you are seeking compensation after an accident in a public place.


Overview of Florida Personal Injury Claims

It is disturbing to realize the frequency of fatal and injury-causing accidents, but statistics from the National Security Council (NSC) reveal the dangers. In 2021, there were almost 225,000 people killed in preventable incidents, while another 62 million victims sought medical attention for unintentional injuries.


Though the underlying reasons for personal injuries may vary, these incidents occur because of negligence. This term has a specific meaning under Florida law, so you must prove certain facts to recover compensation. You need evidence showing that the at-fault party breached the duty to exercise reasonable care, leading to an accident in which you were injured. 


In the context of injuries in a public place, specific type of negligence is premises liability in Florida. The at-fault party might be the owner, operator, manager, or other entity that has control over the space. These parties are required to keep the premises in reasonably safe condition, so as to avoid the risk of harm to those who enter. When they fail to do so, property owners can be liable for injuries to victims. 


Potential Parties for Injuries in Public Places

There are two approaches to understanding how claims for injuries work when the accident takes place in a public area.


  1. The premises are owned or controlled by the government as a public body, such as parks, recreation areas, some beaches, sidewalks, and related spaces.
  2. However, when some people think of public space, they assume these are places that are open to anyone as a guest or visitor. They could be owned by a private or public entity, but anyone can access them.


In a case falling under scenario #1, the at-fault party to pursue would be the government agency, at the federal, state, or local level. When a private individual or company welcomes others under #2, such as to transact business, that entity may be liable for injuries on the premises. Examples include restaurants, bars and taverns, stores and shopping centers, privately-owned entertainment areas, amusement parks and water parks, and other attractions. In a vacation destination like Florida, resorts, tour operators, and fishing outfitters are often parties to personal injury cases.


Claims Against Government Bodies

If your case stems from an accident occurring on government-owned property or otherwise involves a government body, the default rule is that you cannot sue. The concept of sovereign immunity states that a government cannot be sued without its consent, and it dates back to the US roots in British common law. However, there are many exceptions to this default that would enable you to file a personal injury claim for injuries in a public place. Under Florida’s sovereign immunity statute, the government waives this immunity for accidents caused by negligence, recklessness, and other wrongful acts. Additional facts about statute are useful:


  • The law applies to all branches of government, including the executive, legislative, and judicial sectors, as well as agencies created under them.
  • A victim must submit a written claim to the Florida Department of Financial Services within 3 years after the accident, and surviving family members have 2 years to file a wrongful death claim. 
  • The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit against a government body is 3 years, not the 2-year deadline that applies for cases against private parties.


Damages for Personal Injury Cases in Florida

When you have been injured in a public place, you seek monetary damages based upon the losses that you sustain as a victim. One category of compensation is economic damages, which are your tangible, measurable losses. You can pursue the at-fault party for medical costs, including expenses for emergency care, transportation, hospitalization, surgery, treatment from specialists, and other services. It is also possible to recover for your lost wages if you were unable to work because of your injuries.


A second class of compensation is noneconomic damages, which are your losses of a personal, subjective nature. These are the ways your injuries affect your quality of life, so they include pain and suffering, emotional distress, and scarring and disfigurement.


The classification of damages does not change when you pursue a public versus private entity, but there are some limitations when suing the government. You are limited to $200,000 in compensation for non-economic damages, or up to $300,000 when there are multiple government parties at fault. Plus, you cannot obtain amounts for punitive damages, which are intended to punish the at-fault party for offensive, outrageous, malicious misconduct.


How the Legal Process Works

Another difference between claims against public entities and private parties is that you must follow specific rules for filing a claim when the government is at fault for your injuries. Initially, your first steps do not involve going to court. Instead, you must notify the government body, in writing, within the 3-year time limitation mentioned above. The clock starts to run on the date that you were injured. 


When you submit your claim, you trigger another timing issue, which is that the government gets 180 days to investigate the circumstances surrounding the accident. You cannot file a lawsuit in court during this timeframe, unless you receive a denial of your claim before the 180 days ends.


Just like cases against private parties, personal injury claims may settle. There are advantages to agreeing on an amount for damages, and one of the most important is certainty in the outcome of the case. However, if the government will not settle for a fair amount, you will need to sue in court.


Be Prepared for Defenses

The government will fight your personal injury claims just as strenuously as a private party, so you can expect defenses and other strategies to avoid paying you the compensation you deserve. If you miss the statute of limitations or fail to provide written notice of the accident, your claim could be denied. Still, there are some attempts to shirk liability that you must aggressively contest. For instance, the defendant might allege that:


  • Your injuries involve a pre-existing medical condition, so they did not result from the accident at issue;
  • A different party was responsible for causing the accident; or,
  • Your injuries were not severe enough to require medical treatment.


If you were negligent in causing the accident, the government may have a strong defense under Florida’s comparative fault law. Your compensation could be reduced by the amount of negligence associated with your own actions.


Why Legal Help is Critical

A Florida personal injury attorney is essential for any accident claim, including those involving accidents in public places. Premises liability concepts are complicated, and you are at a disadvantage when up against the government’s legal department. Mistakes and failure to comply with the strict procedural rules could lead to dismissal of your case. Your lawyer will tackle the legal tasks and requirements, especially in the early stages of filing a claim and negotiating settlement. If you go to litigation, your attorney will take care of all documents, court appearances, motions, and trial matters.


To Do’s After Getting Injured in an Accident

You can support the efforts of your personal injury attorney by following a few tips on what to do after getting hurt, such as:


  • Call 911 to get police and first responders on the way.
  • Get proper medical care at the ER, an urgent care facility, or your primary care physician.
  • Notify officials at the public place where the accident occurred, getting contact information and employment details for reference purposes.
  • If contacted by the government agency, do not agree to settlement without first consulting with a lawyer.
  • Do not sign any documentation provided by the government, particularly a release of rights.

Reach Out to a Florida Personal Injury Lawyer About Options

One of the most important To-Do’s after an accident is to consult with an attorney for help with filing a claim for injuries sustained in a public place in Florida. Depending on ownership and control of the space, you may need to pursue the government, a private entity, or both. At Rosen Injury Law, P.A., our team is skilled in dealing with all types of parties. We know the detailed rules that cover lawsuits against federal, state, and local governments, so please contact us to discuss your case. We can set up a consultation with a Florida personal injury attorney who will advise you on your remedies.

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