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Can you sue the government over a poorly maintained road?

After an auto accident resulting in injuries or death, it may turn out that another person or another entity was at fault. The negligent party needs to be accountable, and that requires looking at everything that contributed to the crash and subsequent injuries.

One common contributing factor in car accidents is poorly maintained roadways. It is up to the local government to repair potholes, cracks and other hazards in a timely fashion. It may not always be possible to sue the state of Florida or local government entities for their role in accidents, but it is worth looking into.

Yes, you can sue the government

In the past, the doctrine of sovereign immunity shielded the state and its agencies from civil lawsuits by citizens. However, this immunity has been chipped away over time. The courts have recognized exceptions and Florida statute waives this immunity under specific circumstances.

As a result, you can sue the state of Florida, a county, school district, state university, municipality or other agency or subdivision for harm from negligence, omission or wrongful acts. The government could be liable for auto accidents resulting from:

  • Failure to repair big potholes
  • Safety hazards in road construction zones
  • Confusing signage
  • Failure to clear road debris in a timely manner
  • Unsafe roadway design

Limits and exceptions when suing the government

The first barrier to civil lawsuits is the statute of limitations. You must put the state on notice within three years for a personal injury and within two years for a wrongful death. You cannot file the actual lawsuit until 180 days after notice is filed, so the government can investigate.

In general, you cannot sue an individual who works on behalf of the government. No one would take public sector jobs if they could be personally sued. However, you can sue governmental entities when the negligent or intentional actions of their employees lead to injury or death. As an example, if an FDOT truck crashed into your vehicle, you could sue the Department of Transportation but not the employee driving the truck.

Florida law limits damages in claims against the government or its agencies. Monetary compensation is capped at $200,000 against any one government entity and $300,000 total if more than government agency is responsible. The government is immune from punitive damages.

A personal injury lawyer can examine your case and determine if you have a viable claim against the government.


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