Sovereign Immunity: Injured due to Governmental Negligence

It’s Good to Be the King: Sovereign Immunity

Sovereign immunity originated from the old English maxim, “the King can do no wrong.” The principle of sovereign immunity now means that you can’t sue the government unless it lets you.

What does that mean?

Here is a hypothetical:

  • You are going to City Hall to pay a bill. It’s a rainy day.  Upon entering city hall, you slip and fall and severely injure yourself, because City Hall failed to have a mat or keep the area dry.
  • You have been injured due to governmental negligence, most likely.  What do you do?  How can you recover for your injuries?
  • The Florida Legislature has made it quite difficult to sue a governmental entity, placing certain hurdles on the claimant that must be followed before filing lawsuit.

This article briefly discusses what is called “waiver of sovereign immunity” and what a plaintiff must do in order to successfully bring a claim against a governmental entity.

Waiver of Sovereign Immunity in Tort Actions

The State Constitution provides for a waiver of sovereign immunity in tort actions, but only as outlined in section 768.28.  By enacting this statute, the Legislature has opened the door to negligence suits against the government and its political subdivisions.  However, and as expected, one must jump through specific hurdles in order to properly bring a claim.

Procedural Conditions

Every time a claimant wants to bring an action against a governmental entity, they must, within 3 years of the incident, file a claim to the specific agency and to the Department of Financial Services.  Once the notice of claim has been received, the agency has  months to evaluate the claim and either deny or offer to settle the claim before the claimant can file suit. The law also requires that the lawsuit be filed within 4 years of when the incident/injury occurred.

Monetary Considerations

The statute provides a limitation of the recovery of any one individual to $200,000 per incident, and total recovery related to one incident to $300,000.00.  A party can obtain an amount greater than the statutory cap, but the Florida Legislature has to approve the excess by passing a claims bill.  Currently, a Houston family is trying to fight for the additional 1.8 million dollars owed to them by the State when they settled a wrongful death action more than 15 years ago.

In addition to the caps, attorney’s fees are too limited.  An attorney can only recover 25% of the settlement.  That number remains the same whether the case is resolved before filing a lawsuit or after.

These are just a few of the many complicated issues a person, such as our hypothetical claimant above, must consider when bringing a claim against the government or its political subdivisions.  It is vital that a person who was injured at the hands of the government or its political subdivisions, seek experienced, competent counsel if they are thinking about suing.

Chase Justice Injury Attorneys represent clients in personal injury cases against governmental entities throughout Broward, Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.  If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, we are happy to discuss your potential claim in a FREE initial consultation.  You can reach the Firm’s Miami office at (305) 677-2228 or contact us online.

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