Florida’s sovereign immunity law caps payment on negligence claims against the State of Florida and other governmental entities at $100,000 per person and $200,000.00 per claim, if there is more than one person suffering damages. Unfortunately in the most tragic cases, the damages to the injured person or their families far exceeds this amount. It is not uncommon to see jury verdicts against the State of Florida or cities like Fort Lauderdale or Hollywood, for damages in excess of seven figures, particularly where there is the wrongful death of a parent or child or some poor soul is confined to a wheel chair for the rest of their lives as the result of the negligence of a state or governmental worker. In these types of cases, the economic damages alone such as medical bills, can run into the millions of dollars.
Where the circumstances surrounding these cases is particularly tragic and the verdict greatly exceeds the cap, the victim or their family may attempt to seek additional compensation through a claims bill. A claims bill is sponsored by a legislator and presented to the Florida legislature for approval and determination of the additional amount to be paid.
Historically, the Republicans in the Florida legislature have often disapproved claims bills due to a reluctance to compensate accident victims from state or city funds, even though the damages were a result of negligence by a state or governmental employee.
In this time of economic uncertainly, however, Republicans can justify non-payment of claims bills by citing to the short fall of public funding available. House Speaker Larry Cretul last month issued a memo indicating he would be using strict criteria to determine whether a claims bill would be heard in the chamber: the bills must involve local governments in good financial standing and request no more than $500,000 from the state for the victims. This arbitrary cap, regardless of how much in medical bills or damages have been incurred, directly effects those accident victims most seriously damaged.
Given the current climate, only 5 claims bills out of 30 have a chance to be approved. In light of the state’s budgetary circumstances, there may be claims that have or will be filed that cannot possibly be funded this year,” Cretul wrote.
While, not every person who seeks a claims bill from the Florida Legislature can recover, this process should not be used as a political football by the politicians in Tallahassee at the expense of those persons and families who are in the greatest need as a result of governmental negligence. The Florida legislaure should find a way to fairly evaluate these claims bills and to reimburse these victims promptly and fairly.
With over 50 years of collective service to the South Florida community, the Fort Lauderdale personal injury lawyers at The Ben Law Firm have helped thousands of clients to obtain money compensation for their personal injury and wrongful death claims.
All of the firm’s partners have received the prestigious “AV” rating from Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory, which is a recognition by their peers in the legal community that their practice meets the highest professional and ethical standards.