What You Need to Know if You Were Injured by a Public Vehicle
It may be tempting to assume — or hope — that public employees and civil servants are always careful, conscientious and meticulously trained. Nevertheless, serious accidents involving government operated vehicles occur on a regular basis. These can include local transit buses, police cruisers and road maintenance vehicles, as well as typical passenger vehicles maintained for use by public employees. Your rights do not disappear simply because the government is the defendant. However, there are some special rules that do apply.
Classically, the government — whether federal, state or local — was largely immune from prosecution in civil court. However, just about every government entity in the United States has waived this sovereign immunity to some degree. Unfortunately, the waiver is not absolute when it comes to state agencies, counties and other municipal subdivisions in Florida. It contains several limitations as well as additional procedural requirements, including the following:
- Compensation is limited to $200,000 per person.
- Injured individuals must present written notice of the claim to the government defendant and cannot file suit until that defendant denies the claim in writing.
- Injury lawsuits must be filed within three years of the occurrence, or two years if the claim is for wrongful death.
- Government officers, employees and agents are immune from suit in their personal capacities unless they acted with malice or bad faith.
Personal injury lawsuits against state and local agencies certainly do present some special challenges, but they are far from unsurmountable. In fact, government entities may be more amenable to settlement. What’s more, while the ability of the defendant to pay can often be an issue in other types of lawsuits, government entities are almost always fully insured or otherwise able to make good on their liabilities. Therefore, anyone who has been injured in an auto accident involving a government vehicle should consult an attorney to learn more about filing a claim in Fort Lauderdale.