Broken sidewalks and uneven concrete are not uncommon. From tree roots uplifting pavement to extreme weather conditions cracking concrete, there are numerous reasons Florida sidewalks become unsafe. For an attorney facing a premises liability claim because of those uneven or broken sidewalks, several unique challenges present themselves, especially when it comes to collecting compensation from a government agency. In general, government agencies – just like private individuals and organizations – owe a duty of reasonable care to the public. Included in that duty is the responsibility to maintain sidewalks and ensure they are in safe conditions for pedestrians making use of them. Despite this care requirement, there are numerous cities and counties that ignore their duty.
The first challenge when recovering damages from a government agency is determining the agency liable for your injuries. Originally, counties were responsible for sidewalks and roadways; however over the past few years, more Florida cities have implemented their own organizations that handle the maintenance of sidewalks and roadways. Developed subdivisions in the state have even entered into agreements with various government agencies, shifting the responsibility of maintenance from the city to the developers and then to the homeowners association of the development. It can definitely be unclear, so an attorney’s first challenge will be to determine which government agency is responsible for maintaining the walkway.
Once the government agency is identified, a timely notice must be sent to the agency or agencies responsible. Florida law requires injury claims to be provided in writing within three years after the accident occurs (Florida Statute §768.28). In some situations, the claim may be required to be sent to the Florida Department of Financial Services.Therefore, if your attorney fails to provide a timely notice, the government agency responsible will not pay any damages – regardless if they are at fault.
Florida government has waived their sovereign immunity, which means they can be held liable for personal injury claims. However, Florida law limits the amount of damages that can be recovered from a government agency. In most slip and fall cases regarding uneven or broken sidewalks, claims do not surpass the $200,000 liability limit; however, there are certain cases that do surpass the government liability limits. In order to receive compensation above the limit, the attorney must secure a judgment against the government agency and report the amount awarded (in excess of the limit) to the Legislature, requesting that an act be passed to allow the payment to exceed the limits. This is referred to as a “claims bill.”
Holding government agencies liable for your sidewalk-related injuries can be difficult, especially if your damages go above the liability caps. To explore your options for filing a claim against the city, county, or state, meet with the Daytona personal injury attorneys at Vasilaros Wagner. Contact us online to schedule a consultation, or call us at 386-777-7777.