What is Governmental Immunity?
Most personal injury claims are filed against individuals. However, a fair number of lawsuits based on negligence are actually filed against cities, states, and government agencies. Although it can be difficult to hold government agencies accountable for their negligence, it is possible, especially for those who are represented by a personal injury attorney who has experience handling these types of cases.
Waiving Absolute Sovereignty
State governments and their agencies are protected from civil liability by sovereign immunity. While this would normally mean that private citizens would be barred from filing any type of civil lawsuit against the government, Florida has waived absolute immunity and replaced it with a modified version. Fortunately, this means that those who are injured in accidents caused by a government agency can file claims against the state, although there are certain limitations to this rule.
Plaintiffs who file claims against the government must comply with strict filing requirements. For instance, most plaintiffs have four years to file a claim against the negligent party who caused their accident. When the defendant is the government, however, plaintiffs only have six months to file a notice of claim. Only after this step has been taken, can an injured party proceed with the claims process. Unfortunately, those who are unaware of this shortened deadline and fail to submit a notice within the necessary timeframe, will most likely have their case barred by the court.
When a plaintiff is successful in filing a claim against the government, he or she still faces certain restrictions that do not apply in most personal injury cases. For instance, any damages awarded to plaintiffs in these types of cases are capped at $200,000, regardless of the severity of their injuries. Furthermore, injured parties are not permitted to file lawsuits against the state if they involve claims of:
- Planning level functions;
- Judgmental functions; or
- Police power functions.
This means that Florida residents cannot file claims against the state for failing to hire enough police officers or for failing to build a sidewalk near a roadway. Fortunately, this restriction does not apply in cases where a government employee’s failure to perform low level, day-to-day tasks caused an accident, so while a government cannot be held liable for failing to build a sidewalk, it can be held liable for failing to maintain that sidewalk in a reasonably safe manner once it does decide to construct it. Similarly, if a state employee fell asleep at the wheel and caused an accident, his or her employer, or the state, could be required to award damages to the injured parties because driving a car is not a task that requires high-level decision making, but instead falls under the category of day-to-day tasks, for which states can be held liable.
Obtain Legal Representation Today
If you were injured in an accident caused by a government’s negligence, you may face an uphill battle when it comes to filing a claim in court. To ensure that your own claim isn’t dismissed for a failure to abide by filing deadlines, please contact one of the experienced Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorneys at Boone & Davis by calling 954-566-9919 today.