Last week, Governor Scott signed claims bills awarding compensation to numerous Florida injury victims who were injured as a result of Florida state and local governments’ negligence.  Normally, any lawsuit brought by a victim of negligence on the part of a Florida government agency or their employees are restricted by the legal doctrine of sovereign immunity.

Sovereign immunity stems from the old English concept that “the king can do no wrong.”  Put another way, it essentially protects state and local governments from being held liable to compensate people who are injured by government actions.  While the law states that Florida graciously waives this protection in lawsuits for negligence, it does so with the caveat that potential damages are substantially limited.

If you are injured as the result of a Florida government employee or agent’s negligence, you could potentially only be able to recover $200,000, individually, and only $300,000 per claim, altogether.  Meaning, if there were 25 passengers injured on a Florida municipality bus that crashed due to the driver’s negligence, those 25 passengers would potentially have to split only $300,000, regardless of how severe some injuries may be.  Florida upholds certain arguments to defend the need for sovereign immunity, but in reality, it’s just unfair to Florida injury victims.

However, there is a way for Florida injury victims to get around these limitations in compensation, which is to file a claim with the Florida legislature, where they (sometimes) consider awarding additional compensation in specific cases.  However, due to the extremely busy and short legislative session, the claims of many deserving Florida injury victims are never even heard.

Despite this inherent unfairness to so many other Florida victims, some of the claims bills do reach the Governor’s desk.  Some of the 2017 claims bills that passed included $1.8 million remainder of a $2 million lawsuit stemming from the death of a freshman football player at FSU.  Another was a $1.2 million award for the widow of a Florida truck driver who was killed in an accident caused by a storm drain backup that left standing water on the roadway.  Jerry Cunningham, a 14-year-old Pompano Beach resident was awarded the remaining $550,000 of his $850,000 award for injuries suffered when he tried to board a Broward County bus and got his arm caught in the door as the bus drove away from the stop.  Last, another local teen, Altavious Carter from Palm Beach County will receive $790,000 due to a broken neck caused by a Palm Beach County school bus violently rear-ending the van he was in.

These tragic incidents are several of the 11 claims bills signed by the Governor.  Keep in mind that some Florida injury victims, or the family members of Florida wrongful death victims, can pursue these claims bills for many years.  One of the claims bills approved in this session arose from an incident that occurred over 20 years ago.  Needless to say, it’s time for the Florida government to revisit this antiquated legal concept and allow itself to be held accountable for its negligence, just like each one of its citizens would have to do.

If you or someone you know has been injured as the result of another’s negligence, whether it involves a Florida government agency or otherwise, it is imperative that you contact a skilled and knowledgeable Fort Lauderdale injury attorney, to make sure that your rights are adequately protected.

For more information on this topic or any other, please contact the Schulman Law Group at (954) 349-3300 or at info@schulaw.com