Life isn’t easy when you’ve been injured, and finding out who is at fault can quickly become a mess when you’re tied up in the legal system. If a city, town, or municipality is to blame for your injury, the process can seem even more complicated. It doesn’t have to be. This is why we have such a system of laws in the first place. So you’ve been injured–but what does it mean to sue a municipality?
Part of the problem when suing municipalities is the legal limitations set forth to protect them from losing too much money–even if their negligence led to your injury. A municipality is defined as a regional division with corporate status or governed locally.
The first thing you’ll notice when trying to file a claim placing blame on a municipality is presence of time. In an ordinary personal injury case, a statute of limitations governs how long you have to file your claim. This period of time usually provides you with years to make your case. When suing a municipality, you might only have as few as thirty days to establish and file your case.
This distinction is important because injuries don’t always become apparent for months or years following an accident. If this scenario sounds like yours, then speak to your personal injury attorney about any options that may still be open to you. Even if your injury is obvious right away, it’s important to set up your case with as much speed as possible.
Before you can file a claim, you should file a “Notice of Claim”. This informs the municipality in question that a lawsuit is pending, and allows them to prepare an appropriate response. In Florida, notice must be filed with the Florida Department of Financial Services. If that seems confusing, you shouldn’t be surprised. Local governments have limited funding, and they protect their resources however they can. After the notice is filed, an additional period of time must elapse before you can take it into court.
One last thing to keep in mind: filing a claim for punitive damages–in order to prevent future negligence–usually isn’t possible when suing municipalities.