Did you know that Florida law limits the amount someone can be paid for injuries caused in a negligent accident if that accident was caused by a police officer or governmental employee? This is called Sovereign Immunity, which was historically enacted to ensure that kings were never sued by those they ruled. This law was one of the many reasons why our Founding Fathers felt the need to draft the Declaration of Independence. Though laws were passed to allow citizens to sue a city, municipality or government as a whole, the laws in our country limit the amount the government has to pay, no matter the amount of damages or losses caused by the governmental employee. The law also states that you cannot sue the employee individually.
Florida Statute 768.28 is the Waiver of Sovereign Immunity in Florida, allowing citizens to sue a governmental agency in Florida. The statute states: “Neither the state nor its agencies or subdivisions shall be liable to pay a claim or a judgment by any one person which exceeds the sum of $200,000 or any claim or judgment, or portions thereof, which when totaled with all other claims or judgments paid by the state or its agencies or subdivisions arising out of the same incident or occurrence, exceeds the sum of $300,000.” In layman’s terms, if a police officer, while looking at his computer screen in his patrol car, runs a red light and seriously injures or kills your family member, the limit that will be paid is $200,000. Since you cannot sue the individual police officer or governmental employee, the law allows them to be negligent without the consequences that you or I are exposed to every day. You might ask, “Why is it OK for a police officer to type on his computer while driving a patrol car when it is illegal for me to text and drive?” Police officers are, by statute, permitted to do so.
I have often been asked if it is it possible to collect more than $200,000 because of a governmental agency, city, state or municipality’s negligence; The answer is yes, but only if the governmental agency, city, county or state is willing to do so voluntarily. You can also force the government to pay more than the $200,000 if you go through a full-blown trial and get a judgment against the government in excess of $200,000. Then, you must get the Florida Legislature and the Governor to pass and sign a specific bill/law on your claim of their negligence, directing the government agency to pay the judgement amount. As you can imagine, these cases do not happen very often. Even in cases in which these bills are signed and passed into laws, it is often a long and arduous process, requiring you to hire a lobbyist to pass the bill through legislature. Many see this as an unfair process for the citizens of Florida, as it provides governmental employees with less responsibility than you or I would have in paying for the damages they may cause.
If you, a loved one or a friend have been injured due to the negligence of a government agency or employees, please do not hesitate to contact Wieland, Hilado & DeLattre at (407) 841-7699. Consultations are free. For additional resources, keep checking our blog, LIKE us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for helpful hints and to always be informed about best practices when it comes to personal injury.