Imagine you are stopped at a traffic light. You look in your rearview mirror and see the driver behind you fiddling with their phone as they roll up on you. Instinctively, you brace for impact, since there’s a car in front of you and you have nowhere to go. As you survey the damage you notice that you were hit by a state car. Things may seem more complicated now.
The Concept of Sovereign Immunity
You’ve heard it said you can’t sue City Hall. Well, that only applies in some situations. The idea that the government, and by extension those who work for it, are immune from being sued goes way back in history to a concept called sovereign immunity. This was developed in England as a protection for the King, those who represented the King, and the rest of the governing body.
The principle was carried over to the United States, hence the saying you can’t sue City Hall; however, that isn’t necessarily true in all situations. Depending on the circumstances an individual may sue the state. In Florida, according to Florida Statute § 768.28, sovereign immunity is waived by the state from liability of torts.
Suing a State Driver for Injury
In our scenario, you can sue for damages. In Florida, you can make a claim against the government where injury, death or loss of personal property was caused by a negligent or wrongful act or omission by a state employee, as long as the employee was acting within the scope of employment and would be liable as a private person. In this case, if the state driver had been a random person driving a private car, he or she would be liable. Suing a state driver in this scenario is possible.
While it is possible to make a claim, there are limitations involved as well. The Florida government cannot be sued for punitive damages, and it is not liable for interest for the period before judgment. Furthermore, there is a cap of $200,000 for one person or $300,000 for all claims pertaining to a specific incident. Any settlement that exceeds that amount would need to be brought to the state legislature in order to have the payment authorized.
If you are injured by a government vehicle and contemplating suing a state driver, you do have legal recourse. It may seem more complicated than taking a private person to court, however with the right legal representation, you can relax and trust your lawyers to handle the case. Frohlich, Gordon & Beason, P.A., are attorneys who care, and we specialize in personal injury cases. Contact us for more information or for a complimentary consultation. We proudly serve the southwest Florida areas, including Englewood, Port Charlotte, and North Port.