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I Was Hit by a Police Car. Do I Have a Claim?

If you were struck by a police car, it is important to speak with a Jacksonville Personal Injury Lawyer to identify your rights.  These claims are controlled by the Sovereign Immunity statute and cases interpreting the law.  This term dates back to British Common Law where the King (Sovereign) could do no wrong and could not be sued.  Today, the Sovereign is the State of Florida or any of its agencies or subdivisions.  While you are allowed to sue the Sovereign, you must sue them in the very specific way the state has laid out in the Florida Statutes.

Florida Statute Section 768.28, lists several aspects of cases against the state, its agencies, or subdivisions. 

Notice – Who, When, and What Does It Contain?

Before filing suit against the state, its agencies, or subdivisions, you have to provide them with notice of your intent to initiate litigation.  The statute states who you must notify:

  • the head of the agency or subdivision;
  • the municipality or county; and/or
  • the Department of Financial Services.

The notice has to contain specific information including:

  • the claimant’s date and place of birth,
  • social security number, and
  • all adjudicated penalties, fines, fees, victim restitution fund, and other judgments in excess of $200.00 owed by the claimant to the state, its agency, officer, or subdivision. 

The Statute states the notice must be filed within 3 years after the claim accrues for negligence cases and 2 years after the claim accrues for wrongful death claims.  The Department of Financial Services or the appropriate agency has 6 months to make final disposition of the claim.  If they fail to dispose of the claim within that timeframe, the claim will be deemed denied and a lawsuit can be initiated. 

For medical malpractice and wrongful death claims, the Department of Financial Services or the appropriate agency has 90 days after the notice to make a final disposition of the claim. 

It is important to note, as of March 24, 2023, with the passage of HB 837, the statute of limitations on negligence claims is 2 years. Due to the fact the Department of Financial Services or the appropriate agency has 6 months to make a final disposition of the claim, this effectively shortens the statute of limitations on negligence claims. That is why we encourage you to speak with one of our lawyers at Rosenberg & Calvin, P.A., to help you protect and preserve your claim.

Damages are Limited

Money damages against the state, its agencies, or subdivisions are limited to $200,000 per person and $300,000 per occurrence.  If your damages are more severe, you will have to try your case to verdict, obtain a judgment. Then, you will have to take the excess to the legislature and attempt to have a claims bill passed.  It takes an act of the legislature to pass a bill paying you for part or all of the excess over the sovereign limits. 

Additionally, there are no punitive damages in sovereign immunity cases.  These are damages awarded to punish improper behavior.

Fees are Limited

Lawyers are not allowed to charge more than 25% of the gross recovery on sovereign immunity cases.  This is compared to negligence cases where lawyers can charge 33 1/3 % for non-litigated cases and up to 40% for cases that are litigated.  While this may sound like a good deal for the plaintiff, this reduced fee limits the number of attorneys willing to take on smaller sovereign immunity cases. 

No Personal Liability

There is no personal liability for officers, employees, or agents of the state or subdivisions, and nor can any of these individuals be named in a lawsuit.  An exception to naming the individual is in situations where they acted in bad faith or with malicious purpose or in a manner exhibiting wanton and willful disregard of human rights, safety, or property.  However, if the individual’s actions rise to this level, the state or its subdivisions are not responsible for the officer, employee, or agent acting in this manner.

Police Chase

The Sovereign Immunity statute sets forth the criteria that exonerate the employing agency of a law enforcement officer from liability for injury, death, or property damage caused by a person fleeing from the officer in a motor vehicle as long as three criteria are met:

  • The pursuit must have been conducted in a manner that does not involve conduct by the officer that is so reckless or wanting in care as to constitute a disregard for human life, human rights, safety, or the property of another;    
  • At the time the officer initiates the pursuit, the officer reasonably believes that the person fleeing has committed a forceable felony as defined in Fla. Stat. Section 776.08; and
  • The pursuit is conducted by the officer pursuant to a written policy governing high-speed pursuits adopted by the employing agency.  The policy must contain specific procedures concerning the proper method to initiate and terminate high-speed pursuit. The law enforcement officer must have received instructional training from the employing agency on the written policy governing high-speed pursuit.

If you have been involved in a collision as a result of a police pursuit or if you have been in an accident with a police vehicle, it is important to speak with a Jacksonville Personal Injury Lawyer to investigate your claim to identify all of your potential avenues of recovery.

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