201712.03
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Bicyclist Killed In Collision with Broward County Sheriff’s Office Vehicle

A bicyclist was recently killed by a Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) deputy in broad daylight in Pompano Beach.  According to a report from the Palm Beach Post, a man in his 50’s was riding his bicycle north on Dixie Highway when the two collided.  Upon impact, the bicyclist became wedged underneath the BSO SUV.  Although the SUV was marked, the deputy did not have his lights or siren on, although a BSO spokesperson advised the media that neither state law nor BSO regulations required the deputy to do so.  BSO further advised the deputy was responding to an alarm call at the time of the event and there was also evidence indicating the bicyclist’s tire had possibly become stuck in nearby railroad tracks according to eyewitness accounts.  In addition, eyewitnesses also reported the bicyclist may even have fallen off his bike before the collision occurred. Although the bicyclist was pronounced dead on the scene, the deputy was not harmed in the accident but was described as shaken up emotionally according to a BSO spokesperson.

Lawsuits Against Governmental Agencies in Florida

Although it is unclear whether the recent death of a bicyclist in Pompano Beach was caused by any negligence on the part of the BSO deputy who was driving the marked SUV involved in the accident, the accident brings up what can be a thorny legal issue for victims of motor vehicle accidents and other personal injury scenarios.  Specifically, lawsuits against a sheriff’s department, police, a city or any other state or local governmental agency are different than those against a private party under Florida law.  This is due to a legal concept known as “sovereign immunity.”   Sovereign immunity means that the state and its various arms and agencies are immune to being sued except in specific instances in which the state has chosen to selectively waive this right to allow citizens to seek compensation for wrongs committed by government employees.

Under Florida Statute Section 768.28, the state and its various subdivisions (including most local governments and local governmental agencies like the BSO) have waived their sovereign immunity for torts like motor vehicle accidents caused by government employees.  This means that the state government can be held responsible for any injury or loss or destruction of property to the same extent as a private individual.  However, Florida law provides that “Neither the state nor its agencies or subdivisions shall be liable to pay a claim or a judgment by any one person which exceeds the sum of $200,000.”  Personal injury lawsuits against a government agency are therefore governed by damages caps that do not apply in other lawsuits.  Therefore, even if a jury were to award the bicyclist’s estate $1,000,000 in connection with the accident, his or her estate and survivors would only be entitled to recover $200,000 from the BSO.  The remaining $800,000 would require either the BSO to agree to pay that additional amount or would require an Act to be passed by the Florida Legislature awarding that $800,000 to the bicyclist.

Lawsuits against governmental entities also may be barred completely by other laws.  For instance, someone intending to sue the state or a subdivision must provide written notice to the applicable agency or subdivision of the state of his or her intent to sue that agency and the agency must deny the claim before the injured person may file suit.  Failure to do so could result in any lawsuit you file being barred.  In addition, the agency (in this case the BSO) must be sued rather than the individual agency employee who was negligent and caused the injuries unless the employee acted in bad faith or with malicious purpose or in a manner exhibiting wanton and willful disregard of human rights, safety, or property.

Contact The Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys of Schwed, Adams, Sobel & McGinley if You Have Been Involved in an Accident Caused by a in Florida

As reflected above, there can be many pitfalls for the unwary in lawsuits against state or local governments or agencies.  If you have been involved in a motor vehicle accident  or any other type of personal injury scenario in Florida involving a state or local government employee, you need an experienced personal injury attorney who knows the ins and outs of suing the government.  Contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Schwed, Adams, Sobel & McGinley, P.A. today.  We have achieved great success in representing clients in collisions caused by state and local government employees who were acting negligently during our firm’s attorneys’ 150 combined years practicing law.  Contact us today at (877) 694-6079 or contact@schwedlawfirm.com for a free consultation regarding your situation.

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