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Caps on Government Liability


Personal Injury

The Personal Injury Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Yochim P.A. represent accident victims who are seeking compensation for damages through a claim against a governmental entity. While there are many potential entities that could be a Defendant to a suit against the government, some of the most common include claims against a city, county, state, school district, or police department. Claims against the government, are far more complex than other types of personal injury or wrongful death actions. In addition, the recovery limits, or ‘caps on government liability,’ pursuant to Florida Statute 768.28, make it very difficult for a victim to obtain compensation in excess of the statutory limit.

As a preliminary note, it is important to point out, that the current caps on government liability are actually far more than what they were set at just a few years ago–$100,000 per person and $200,000 per accident. However, Florida changed this in October of 2011, by increasing recovery limits to $200,000 per person and $300,000 per accident. Although the increase was certainly a significant one, our Gainesville personal injury team feels that Florida’s current caps hinder a victim’s ability to obtain the compensation they deserve, by essentially requiring the claimant to ‘jump through hoops.’

While, at a glance, the legislative intent behind recovery limits—deterring claims against the government—is a concept that can be easily grasped, what also needs to be taken into consideration is the manner in which such caps fail to account for the numerous victims that may be entitled to far more compensation. In other words, while we understand the state’s interest in limiting liability, preventing frivolous lawsuits, and reducing the overall number of claims, Florida’s limited waiver of Sovereign Immunity does not provide victims, who have valid claims, with an fair means of legal recourse.

Perhaps the most important thing that victims should understand about government caps, is that recovery limits do not entirely preclude recovery beyond the $200K/$300K caps. Rather, a claimant wishing to recover an amount in excess of statutory limits, must engage in a lengthy and complicated procedural process. Florida Statute 768.28(5) , provides in part:

“…Neither the state nor its agencies or subdivisions shall be liable to pay a claim or a judgment by any one person which exceeds the sum of $200,000 or any claim or judgment, or portions thereof, which, when totaled with all other claims or judgments paid by the state or its agencies or subdivisions arising out of the same incident or occurrence, exceeds the sum of $300,000. However, a judgment or judgments may be claimed and rendered in excess of these amounts and may be settled and paid pursuant to this act up to $200,000 or $300,000, as the case may be; and that portion of the judgment that exceeds these amounts may be reported to the Legislature, but may be paid in part or in whole only by further act of the Legislature…” [emphasis added]

In interpreting this statute, it is helpful to note the emphasized portion, particularly the language “only by further act of the Legislature.” In order to fully understand the processes involved, it is necessary to view the aforementioned statute in conjunction with Florida Statute 11.066, particularly section (3), which provides:

“Neither the state nor any of its agencies shall pay or be required to pay monetary damages under the judgment of any court except pursuant to an appropriation made by law. To enforce a judgment for monetary damages against the state or a state agency, the sole remedy of the judgment creditor, if there has not otherwise been an appropriation made by law to pay the judgment, is to petition the Legislature in accordance with its rules to seek an appropriation to pay the judgment.” [emphasis added]

While there is an exception for claimants to obtain excess judgments that are within the limits of insurance coverage held by a governmental entity if such entity agrees, for all other claimants, the process of obtaining an excess judgment will require the claimant to seek approval through filing a claim bill, also referred to as a relief act.

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Claimants should also be aware that there are a number of pre-suit requirements, pertaining to notice, service, and disclosure, which must be strictly adhered to. In addition, the Legislature will not process a contested claim bill until all available administrative and judicial remedies have been exhausted by the claimant.

These requirements, and the processes associated with excess damage amounts in claims against the government, are precisely the type of hindrances that we were referring to earlier, which greatly impede a claimant’s ability to recover the compensation that a victim may deserve. Nevertheless, while the complexities involved in government liability claims may seem to be unfair or unreasonable, the law in Florida, at least for now, remains just as it was drafted, and subsequently amended, by Legislation.

Consequently, the Gainesville Attorneys of the Law Office of Alba & Yochim P.A. stress the vital importance of not only securing legal representation, but also ensuring the representative selected has the knowledge, skill, capability, and expertise to handle the complex nature of claims against the government, particularly those involving excess damages. Our team of aggressive lawyers have decades of practice experience, and remain dedicated to the pursuit of justice through seeking the compensation deserved on behalf of accident victims.