Fiol Law Group|Posted in Car Accidents on October 8, 2019
Police officers are just like other drivers. Despite being members of law enforcement, they can make mistakes behind the wheel that cause serious accidents. Driver distraction or negligence could contribute to a police car striking a pedestrian or another driver. If a police vehicle hits you in Tampa, you may have grounds to file an injury claim, with the help of a Tampa car accident attorney, against the entity the officer works for, such as the Tampa Police Department or the Florida Highway Patrol.
The Florida Tort Claims Act
Sovereign immunity is a legal doctrine that protects most government entities from civil lawsuits. It holds that a government’s position exempts it from liability for citizens’ damages. Most states, however, have counteracted sovereign immunity with Tort Claims Acts – laws exposing the government to liability in certain situations. In Florida, the State Constitution waives sovereign immunity for liability for specific torts.
In general, if a victim of an accident would have the right to bring a lawsuit against a government entity or employee had that party been acting as a private person, the victim will have the right to bring a claim. If the government entity or one of its on-duty employees was negligent, careless, reckless or intentional in causing the vehicle collision, therefore, you could have grounds for an injury lawsuit.
Under Florida’s Tort Claims Act, the state and its agencies shall be liable for negligence in the same manner and extent as a private individual. However, a claimant cannot seek punitive damages against the government entity. The state also places a cap of $200,000 on any judgment award from a government entity, or $300,000 if multiple parties are defendants. A victim must bring a claim against the government within three years of the date of the accident.
How to Bring a Claim Against the Police in Tampa
To have a claim against a law enforcement agency in Florida, the entity or one of its police officers must have been guilty of negligence or carelessness that caused your accident. You or your attorney must prove the defendant was responsible for the auto accident. If the police officer did something a reasonable and prudent driver would not have in similar circumstances, the police force could be liable for damages. An injury lawyer in Clearwater or Tampa can help you with the steps to bringing a claim against a police department in Florida.
- Gather evidence. Collect any available evidence against the at-fault police officer, such as eyewitness testimony regarding the accident and photographs from the scene of the crash.
- Complete paperwork. Gather your medical records, police reports and other information and use it to fill out the Initial Claims Report against the government entity.
- File a claim. As soon as you can, bring your case to the attention of a car accident attorney in Tampa. A lawyer can help you build your case, identify the correct defendant and file your claim by the deadline.
The government agency taking your claim will have 180 days to investigate the case before you may file a lawsuit. You may file sooner, however, if the agency replies with a denial sooner than 180 days. If you take the agency to court, hire a lawyer to represent you. The state or city police department will have the resources to fight your claim and combat liability for the auto accident. While most injury cases settle before going to court, some may end up in trial if the police department refuses to settle the claim.
Do You Have a Case?
To bring a claim against a police officer or his or her employer in Tampa, you must have the main elements of a claim. If you would have grounds for a case against a typical driver for negligence or fault, you will generally have a case against the police officer. The basic elements of a claim are duty, breach, causation and damages. Your lawyer must establish the police officer breached a duty of care to you through some act of negligence and that this is what caused the collision. Then, your lawyer must demonstrate you suffered real, specific damages as a result of the accident. An attorney can help you with every element of your case against a police officer in Tampa.