The state of Florida adopted the common law of England which included the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Under this doctrine, the government or the state could not be sued without its permission. The reasoning of this doctrine originated from medieval England because one could not sue the King, or the authority figure that made the laws on behalf of the sovereign. However, throughout the years, the Florida legislature has waived the state’s immunity by enacting statutory provisions which makes it possible for a government entity to be sued under the Florida Claims Bill.
Essentially, among other things, the claims bill allows a person to bring a lawsuit against the state, but under current law which became effective on October 1, 2011, recovery for damages are limited to $200,000 per person, or $300,000 per incident. In other words, if your Fort Lauderdale personal injury suit was against a government agency or official, such as a law enforcement officer, and the jury awarded you $1.5 million, you are required to contact your state legislator to introduce a claims bill on your behalf in the Legislature to recover the excess of the statutory limit. Unfortunately, this process could take a long time, up to 10 years in some cases.Recently, the Florida Senate passed a claims bill that would award a Floridian, Eric Brody $10.75 million. In 1998, Brody became permanently injured when a Broward County Sheriff’s deputy, Christopher Thieman, drove at a rate of 75 miles per hour (M.P.H.) in a 45 M.P.H. speeding zone and crashed into Brody’s vehicle. At the time, Brody was a senior in high school with aspirations of attending college and on his way home at the time of the Florida motor vehicle accident. Thieman was on his way to work for a mandatory roll call. In 2005, a jury found that the deputy was negligent and awarded Brody $30.9 million for the severe brain injury he sustained due to the officer’s negligence. Also, Brody was in a coma for approximately six months, today, he depends upon a wheelchair to be mobile, and suffers from mobility and speech disabilities.
Our Fort Lauderdale motor vehicle accident lawyers are delighted that the Senate has made the Brody bill a priority this session. Last year, the bill died in the Senate when time ran out. Also, the Senate awarded $1.35 million to William Dillon for the harm he suffered as a result of spending 27 years in prison for on a wrongful murder conviction.
Moreover, the way the claims bill process operates in Florida after a legislator has introduced the bill in the Legislature, is that a Senate claims bill is filed. A Special Master and committees made up of volunteer attorneys, known as Senate Special Masters will review the claims bill. It is their duty to determine whether or not the claims bill will have an effect on the state’s fiscal funding or local funding. If it is determine that the claims bill will have an impact on the fiscal funding of the state, the bill is referenced to a Committee on Rules and Calendar. However, in the House of Representatives, all claim bills are reviewed by a Special Master who then references the bill first to the Judiciary Subcommittee on Claims, the Judiciary Committee, and other committees. Following, the Senate and House Special Masters will hold a joint hearing to determine if the traditional elements of a negligence claim have been met; duty, breach, causation and damages. If the negligence elements are met the Special Masters will write a report and recommend to the Legislature whether or not it should pass or reject the claims bill.
If you have been injured as a result of the government’s negligence, you should contact a Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorney soon after an accident to discuss your case, and advice about your legal options.
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