A trial court in South Florida has ordered Broward County to pay nearly $250,000 to a woman who says she was seriously injured by a negligent driver, who was on-duty, working for the county at the time of the crash.
Whether victim will in fact receive that total sum remains to be seen. By law, the most a government entity can be made to pay out for a single individual in a tort action is $200,000 each or $300,000 total for a single incident. So that means even if there are three victims with equal injuries exceeding the cap, the most they could receive would be $100,000 each. The only way to get more than that is to request the passage of a claims bill by the state legislature. That could take time, but depending on the severity of one’s injuries and the size of the award, it could be worthwhile in some cases.
Here, in the case of Clements v. Broward County, plaintiff alleged she was driving her sport utility vehicle on the Florida Turnpike, traveling north toward Hollywood Boulevard, in December 2012. Suddenly, a pickup truck, owned by the county and driven by one of its employees, entered the ramp to the turnpike in her same direction – and directly in her path.
The two vehicles collided, causing severe injury to plaintiff. She was later diagnosed with a depressed fracture of the tibial plateau in her right now. As a result, she was forced to undergo surgery. At some point in the future, it’s probable she’ll need a total knee replacement.
A police officer concluded in a report submitted at trial that the driver of the pickup was traveling “too fast for conditions.” It’s not clear from the brief news report what those conditions were, but we do know one doesn’t necessarily need to be driving in excess of the speed limit to meet that criteria. If one is traveling far in excess of the flow of traffic or if adverse weather conditions warrant a reduced speed, responsible drivers must slow down.
The county apparently refused to settle the claim, and the case went to trial. Jurors determined plaintiff’s total damages were exactly $246,670. That was for past and future medical bills, wages losses and pain and suffering.
Jurors found county had been 100 percent liable for the traffic accident. That means plaintiff shared no comparative fault or blame for the accident, which means her damage award will not be reduced, as it would be a percentage comparative to whatever fault the jury found.
It should be noted that lawsuits against the government in Florida must overcome a number of hurdles. This is true even if you were seriously injured by the clear negligence of a government worker. That’s why it’s so imperative to have an experienced attorney on your side.
First, there is the issue of sovereign immunity. F.S. 768.28 is in essence a government waiver of sovereign immunity for most government activities where there was an underlying common law duty of care. The statute is intended to be broad, but it’s not intended to create causes of action for activities that are inherent to government function.
Beyond that, there are stringent notice requirements and other elements that must be met.
The government is likely to put forth a strong defense. Those who have suffered injury must be prepared.
If you have been a victim of a traffic accident, call Chalik & Chalik at (954) 476-1000 or 1 (800) 873-9040.
Broward County Liable for Injuries in Wreck, Sept. 2, 2015, Staff Report, Daily Business Review
More Blog Entries:
Distracted Driving in Florida School Zones a Growing Problem, Aug. 30, 2015, Fort Myers Accident Attorney Blog