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Claims against the Government


Personal Injury

As Personal Injury Attorneys, we recognize that understanding the claims process, as well as the claimant’s ability to recover damages from a particular party, can be difficult for the victim, even in cases where liability is sought against an individual person and/or that person’s insurance policy. When the source of compensation is a state, city, county, school district or other governmental entity, the claims process can become far more complicated for a victim to understand. While every case is unique, and should be individually assessed by an attorney, the following is offered by the Law Office Alba & Yochim P.A., as a general overview of matters associated with claims against the government.

In our years as practicing attorneys, we have seen many clients come to us with the belief that you cannot sue the government, while others believe that recovery from a governmental entity is either limitless, or no different than other types of claims processes. Such beliefs are commonly based upon misunderstanding of the concept of sovereign immunity, which put simply, is a doctrine that prohibits suits against the government without the government’s consent. However, as permitted by our state’s constitution, Florida has included a provision which expressly waives sovereign immunity, although only to the extent specified within Florida Statute 768.28.

In sum, you can sue a state, county, city, school district, or other government entity in Florida, but when a monetary award exceeds the statutory limits, as set forth in Florida Statutes, the claimant must seek approval by the Legislature, before they can recover any excess amount. In Florida, recovery limits are $200,000 per person, or $300,000 per incident.

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The next logical inquiry, then, is how might a claimant seek approval for an amount that exceeds the state’s recovery limits? Generally, monetary damage awards, extending from actions involving government liability, require the claimant to file what is referred to as a ‘claim bill.’ So then, you may be wondering, What exactly is a Claim Bill? As provided by the Legislative Claim Bill Manual:

A claim bill, sometimes called a relief act, is a bill that compensates a particular individual or entity for injuries or losses occasioned by the negligence or error of a public officer or agency.  It is a means by which an injured party may recover damages even though the public officer or agency involved may be immune from suit.  Majority approval in both chambers of the Legislature is required for passage.

To better understand the processes involved, it may be helpful to use a real-life example. In a previous blog, ‘Victim Paralyzed when Branch Fell from City-Owned Tree Still Awaiting Payout Nearly 3 years Following Incident,’ we discussed how the injured teen sued the City of Jacksonville and reached a settlement that far exceeded the statutory recovery limit for government liability. Here, despite the city’s approval of the entire $3.5 million settlement, the victim was required by statute to seek approval by the legislature in order to recover beyond the $200,000 cap on government liability. However this case was unique, because Florida Senate President Don Gaetz has refused to hear the matter, and on May 2nd, 2014, the request for the additional $3.3 million died in the judiciary.

The Stewart case serves as a perfect example of why it is vitally important to have an experienced attorney in matters where the victim is seeking recovery against a governmental entity. The foregoing is provided as a brief summary on the topic of government liability, however, in practice the procedural processes involved are far more complicated. To view related information, see Caps on Government Liability.

If you or a loved on suffered injury or fatality in an incident that you suspect was caused as a result of the actions or inaction of a government entity, the Gainesville Accident & Injury Attorneys of the Law Office Alba & Yochim P.A. want to help you obtain the compensation that you and your family may be entitled to.