Sovereign immunity is a legal doctrine highly relevant to accident and
injury law, yet many people do not know what it is. In a nutshell, sovereign
immunity prevents anyone from suing a government for tort, or accidents
and injuries that are the government's fault, unless the government
gives permission. As an example of this, imagine that you were injured
by a government employee due to his gross negligence. Now, if the employee
were employed by anyone other than the government, you would be able to
recover from the company. But under true sovereign immunity you would
not be able to recover from the government unless the government granted
History of Sovereign Immunity
Like much of our common law in the United States,
sovereign immunity comes from our English legal traditions. At the time when all law came
from the king, no one could sue the king unless given permission to do
so. The maxim of the time was that the 'king could do no wrong.'
In reality it was just another arbitrary rule that protected the king's
assets from being distributed under any circumstances. As England developed
and grew, the doctrine of sovereign immunity transferred itself to all
aspects of government activity in the kingdom.
When the United States was establishing itself as its own country, Alexander
Hamilton argued that the principle of sovereign immunity was intact in
the new country. He stated in the
Federalist Papers that no government is subject to a lawsuit unless it gives consent. Feeling
the same way, the Supreme Court recognized the principle and established
it for American laws in
Cohens v. Virginia, 19 U.S. 264 (1821). It is interesting that the doctrine was established
in 1821, because in an earlier decision the Supreme Court declined to
adopt sovereign immunity as an American legal doctrine. Eventually the
courts would establish the doctrine and apply it to not only the federal
government, but to each of the state governments as well.
Florida's Sovereign Immunity Laws
Today, sovereign immunity does not apply as widely as it once did. In fact,
all governments have passed laws granting its citizens the right to sue
them for accidents and injuries. Like other governments, Florida has passed
its own sovereign immunity laws. Florida Statutes
768.28 lays out in great detail the law of sovereign immunity in Florida. Some
of the key points are that:
- There is a cap on how much a person can recover from the state in a personal
injury lawsuit. The cap is $200,000 per person in a case, and $300,000
per claim. That sounds like a lot of money, but it could easily be insufficient
in a complex injury or wrongful death case;
- Attorneys are limited in how much they can make on a lawsuit; and
- There are filing and other requirements in a suit against the state that
do not exist in regular personal injury cases.
The laws involved in a personal injury case against the state of Florida
are complex. It takes a certain understanding and experience for an attorney
to successfully prosecute these cases.
When it comes to any type of accident or injury case in the Panama City
area, The Pittman Firm is the right firm to which to turn for help. We
have the experience and dedication needed to fight on your behalf.
Contact us for a review of your case.