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Claims Against Florida Public Entities Are Subject to Strict Notice Requirements

Most people are familiar with the term “statute of limitations,” which refers to the amount of time that an accident victim has to file a lawsuit. Cases filed after the statute of limitations has expired will not be heard by a court, barring some extraordinary exception. In some cases, when a government or public entity is named as a defendant, an accident victim must also provide notice of the lawsuit to the state.

CrosswalkIn Florida, victims seeking financial recovery from a government entity must follow strict guidelines, or their claims will not be heard. Specifically, notice of the claim must be provided to both the entity being sued as well as the Department of Financial Services within three years of the accident’s occurrence. An accident victim’s failure to comply with these requirements can result in the dismissal of an otherwise meritorious claim. A recent case in front of a New York appellate court illustrates how, even if a plaintiff’s late-filed case is ultimately allowed to proceed, it can still result in lengthy delays and unnecessary expenses.

Newcomb v. Middle Country School District

Newcomb, a 16-year-old boy, was struck by a hit-and-run driver while crossing the street near his school. Within a few days of the accident, Newcomb’s parents provided the school with the details of the accident. Shortly after the accident, police arrested the driver and began proceedings to criminally prosecute him.

Newcomb’s parents hired an attorney to investigate the accident and determine if there was a viable personal injury case. An investigator was sent to the scene to take pictures. Additionally, Newcomb asked for the police department’s file regarding the accident, but the police department could not release the file because the case was ongoing. Eventually, Newcomb received the file and discovered photographs depicting a large sign on school property that obstructed the view of passing motorists.

By this time, nine months had elapsed since the accident. State law required plaintiffs to provide notice of their claim within 90 days. Newcomb sought an exception, asking for permission to serve late notice to the school board, but the trial judge denied Newcomb’s request. Newcomb appealed.

On appeal, Newcomb successfully had the lower court’s decision reversed. The court explained that Newcomb had informed the school about the accident – albeit not the upcoming case – as soon as it was practicable. Furthermore, the lower court applied the wrong legal standard in analyzing Newcomb’s request because that court required Newcomb to establish that the school board had not suffered any “substantial prejudice” by receiving late notice.

The court explained that, while Newcomb had the initial burden to show a lack of prejudice, he met that burden. Once Newcomb’s burden was met, it was up to the school district to make a “particularized showing” of prejudice. Here, the court held, the school district was unable to do so. Thus, Newcomb’s case should have been allowed to proceed.

Have You Been Injured in a Florida Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in any kind of Florida accident that you believe was caused in part by the negligence of a government employee or entity, you may be entitled to compensation. However, you must comply with certain additional requirements. Additionally, there may be issues of government immunity. A skilled auto accident attorney at the South Florida law firm of Cecere Santana can assist you in understanding what you must do to preserve your right to recover compensation. With experience successfully handling hundreds of cases, we know how to take care of our clients and their cases to maximize their chance of success. Call 800-753-5529 to set up a free consultation today.

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Cecere Santana Supports Food Drive, Cecere Santana Injury Lawyers Blog, published November 4, 2016.

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