How A Seemingly Simple Deadline Can Trip Up Your Personal Injury Case
When pursuing any type of personal injury claim, you need to be aware of certain deadlines. For example, you probably know that there is a rule called the statute of limitations that requires you to file a lawsuit within a certain time period. For personal injury claims, Florida’s statute of limitations is four years. So if you are injured in a car accident on May 1, 2017, you would have had until May 1, 2021, to sue the negligent driver.
Jacksonville Woman’s Lawsuit Dismissed After She Sent Required Notice to Wrong Agency
Failure to comply with a legal deadline can lead to the dismissal of your case before it is even heard. Here is an example of what we mean. In a recent decision, City of Jacksonville v. Boman, the Florida First District Court of Appeals threw out a slip and fall lawsuit because the plaintiff failed to notify the correct defendant before a statutory deadline.
On December 5, 2013, the plaintiff was walking down a street in Jacksonville when her left leg got caught in a manhole cover, causing her to fall. She subsequently filed a personal injury lawsuit against the Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA), the government agency responsible for the manhole. Because lawsuits against state or municipal agencies are subject to special rules governing sovereign immunity, state and local law require a plaintiff to provide pre-suit notice of their potential claims. These notices must be sent within 3 years of the accident.
In this case, the plaintiff sent out five pre-suit notices. The first three were sent before the expiration of the three-year deadline, i.e., before December 5, 2016. None of these three notices were directly addressed to the JEA. The first two notices went to the City of Jacksonville directly in care of the “Jacksonville Transit Authority,” which was a misidentification of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority. The third notice went to the Florida Department of Transportation.
It was not until the final two notices–which were both sent a few weeks after the three-year deadline expired–that any mention was made of the JEA. Even then, it was not made clear the notices were sent to the JEA. The fourth notice went to the Florida DOT. The final notice referred to the JEA incorrectly as the Jacksonville Transit Authority.
When the plaintiff ultimately sued the JEA, the agency and the city quickly moved to dismiss, citing lack of strict compliance with the pre-suit notice requirement. The trial court declined to dismiss the case, reasoning the plaintiff’s initial notice to the City of Jacksonville itself was “legally sufficient” given that the city and the JEA “share a risk management group.” And in any event, the judge said the JEA clearly had “constructive notice” of the plaintiff’s claims before the deadline expired.
The First District disagreed, however, and ordered the case dismissed. The notice to the City was insufficient to put the JEA on notice, since the latter is “a legal entity independent of the City.” And in any event, the law requires pre-suit notice to the “appropriate agency” directly and not the risk management group.
Speak with a Florida Personal Injury lawyer Today
If you are injured in an accident, it is important you seek out timely legal counsel from a qualified Deerfield Beach slip and fall attorney. Remember, the clock is always ticking when it comes to filing a potential claim for damages and you do not want to be kept away from the courthouse due to a missed deadline. So if you need to speak with a lawyer today, contact the Leifer Law Firm to schedule a consultation.