This year, Florida’s legislature is poised to approve several large compensation packages to individuals who suffered injuries at the hands of state employees, or to their surviving family members. Any payment of over $200,000 to individuals who were harmed by accidents caused by the government must be approved by the legislature, and after years of inaction, lawmakers are finally mobilizing to provide much-needed and long-awaited relief to victims of government negligence.
Among the people who will receive compensation are a man who was negligently cared for at a state hospital, resulting in severe brain damage; a woman who died following a bus accident; and a man who was struck by a police cruiser that ran a red light. These victims and their families will finally get reimbursed for medical costs, lost income and diminished earning capacity, as well as pain and suffering.
Bringing a Lawsuit against the State
Usually, states cannot be sued, because of the legal principle of sovereign immunity. However, states have the option to give up this immunity, allowing people to sue the government in court if they have a claim against it. In Florida, the legislature has decided to allow lawsuits to be brought against it under tort law, also known as accident law.
Individual plaintiffs can recover money damages against the state, which includes any of its agencies and subdivisions, if they suffered injury, death, or damage to property due to “the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee.” The state employee must have been acting within the scope of their employment when the accident took place, so off-duty incidents will not be covered. Instead, a private lawsuit against the individual employee would be the best course of action. For example, if a state police officer who was not working at the time were to cause an accident, the state could not be held liable.
If they are found responsible for an accident, the state can be held liable for tort claims in the same way as a private individual would be, with the exception of punitive damages and interest on the damages before a judgement is entered. State actors can settle lawsuits, or pay amounts ordered by a judge, as long as the amount is less than $200,000. For many serious accidents, this does not even begin to cover the medical expenses, lost earnings, and other damages suffered by a victim. However, Florida law does allow for larger amounts of compensation, but these amounts must be approved by the state legislature, as noted above.
Have You Been Injured?
If you or someone you care about has been injured at the hands of a government employee, whether in a motor vehicle accident, as a result of negligent medical care, because of unsafe conditions in a state-owned property, or in any other way, you may be entitled to compensation. Consult with an experienced Tallahassee attorney to find out whether your case is eligible to move forward against the state or one of its employees. The talented lawyers at Barrett, Fasig & Brooks will assess your case, explain your options, and fight for your best interests during settlement negotiations or a trial. Contact us for a complimentary consultation in the Tallahassee area today.