Florida law recognizes that individuals and entities can be held liable for injuries that another person suffers as a result of negligent actions. But what happens when the at-fault party is a governmental entity or one of its employees? Taking action against the government or its employees is very different than a lawsuit against a private citizen or company. As such, a South Florida Personal Injury attorney is an absolute necessary hire in these instances.
A doctrine known as Sovereign Immunity prevents parties from suing local, state and federal governments and governmental agencies to recover damages for injuries stemming from performing official government duties. This concept came from British Common Law. However, there are waivers or exceptions to sovereign immunity whereby governments, their agencies and subdivisions can still be held liable.
Florida’s Sovereign Immunity Law
Florida’s sovereign immunity law can be found in Florida Statute Section 768.28. This statute waives sovereign immunity for personal injuries in many instances; however, it also places caps on the amounts that an injured Plaintiff can recover. The State of Florida or one of its agencies can only be liable for up to $200,000 per person and $300,000 per tort claim.
In addition to those caps, the state has a myriad of pre lawsuit conditions that must be followed before a lawsuit can be filed. Failure to comply with these important conditions can result in the dismissal of your lawsuit for non-compliance.
Despite the exceptions provided by Florida’s statute, Florida law still provides absolute immunity for discretionary, judgmental, planning-level decisions of a governmental entity. Examples would include decisions regarding initial planning of roads and placement of traffic control devices. Courts have ruled that these functions are immune from all tort liabilities. Many lawsuits are fought over whether this “planning level” immunity applies or not.
What if the Damages are More than the Statutory Caps?
Florida’s Statute permits Plaintiffs to attempt to recover judgments in excess of the statutory caps, but only by acts of the Florida Legislature. This requires a petition to the Florida legislature to pass an official legislative act to pay the injured plaintiff more than the caps. These legislative acts are referred to as “Claims Bills.” It is extremely difficult to get a claims bill passed in Florida and it literally takes years.
Claims and lawsuits against governmental entities like police departments, school boards and public health agencies, are complicated matters. It can take decades of legal experience to successfully handle a case of this nature. By taking the time to schedule a free consultation with an experienced legal representative, a client is in the best position to avoid the pitfalls associated with these variety of claims.