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Suing the Government for Injuries is Not So Easy


In the old days, in England, the king or queen could do no wrong. This was a tenet of the English  legal system—that whatever the king (which was the same thing as the government in those times) did, was correct just because it was the king doing it. You could not sue the king or queen.

Our American legal system has come a long way, but we hold some of those values even in our system today. Our government can be sued and is often sued. However, it is only able to be sued because it allows itself to be sued by statute. The statute is known as the sovereign immunity statute, which allows the government to be sued by citizens pursuant to the terms of the statute.

Restrictions on Suing the Government

Notably, the government has not allowed itself to be sued for an unlimited amount. Rather, liability when suing the government is limited. The government’s maximum liability in a personal injury case is $200,000 for one party, to a maximum of $300,000 if there are additional victims.

A jury can award more than that number, but the only way the government is legally obligated to pay more than that amount is through a claims bill in the legislature. Right now, the families of the victims of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting massacre are facing the fact that the most the school district will ever have to pay to all 17 victims in any lawsuit, is a total of $300,000 (that’s in total–not per victim).

Additionally, although the 4 year limit to sue for negligence applies to the state, there is a 3 year limit to provide notice to the appropriate state agency or department that you intend to sue. If the notice is not sent in that time period, there can be no lawsuit against a state actor. After the notice is sent, the victim must wait until the state agency denies the claim, or else does not respond to the letter for 6 months.

State Actors 

Remember that many claims may involve state actors that you don’t think of as state actors. For example, private companies acting as contractors for the government (such as road crews working on a state road) may be considered a state actor. Public schools, public universities, hospitals, and prisons are state agencies.

When You Can’t Sue

There are still situations where the government can never be sued. Generally you cannot sue the government for a decision that they make. You can only sue them for negligently performing their duties.

For example, you could not sue the city because it did not provide enough police protection to your street. However, if a police officer ran his car through your wall, you could sue. You could not sue because a roadway was built in a confusing manner. You could sue if the lines painted on the roadway were faded to the extent they could not be seen, causing an accident.

Contact the Miami personal injury attorneys at Jacobs Legal today if you are injured in any kind of accident, including one where the government may be involved.


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