Court Discusses Police Officer’s Immunity in Recent Car Accident Case

police stopRecently, an appellate court in another state released an opinion in a personal injury case discussing whether a police officer, plus the city entity that employed him, could be liable for injuries arising out of a car accident allegedly caused by the officer. In the end, the court determined that because the officer’s actions did not rise to the level of “reckless disregard,” the defendants were entitled to immunity.

The case presents an interesting issue for those who have been injured in a Florida car accident that was caused by a police officer or other government employer. For starters, Florida law does not provide government immunity as it is applied in this case. However, the Florida Tort Claims Act (FTCA) provides for a relatively low total recovery amount unless the plaintiff can establish the actions of the government employee exhibited a “willful disregard for human rights or safety.”

The Facts

According to the court’s recitation of the facts, the defendant law enforcement officer received an emergency call and was en route to the scene when he was involved in an accident with the plaintiff. Both the plaintiff and the officer provided very different versions of what occurred, with the plaintiff claiming that the officer inexplicably struck her rear bumper. The plaintiff brought a personal injury claim against the police officer and the city entity that employed the officer.

The court rejected the plaintiff’s claims. First, the court explained that a government employee cannot be held individually liable while they are acting within the expectations of their employment. Here, the court explained that the officer was responding to an emergency call, which was clearly a part of his job.

The court then moved on to discuss the city’s liability, noting that under the state’s tort claims act, the city was not liable for actions of an employee unless those actions exhibited a “reckless disregard of the safety and well-being” the plaintiff. Here, the court held that the officer’s actions – while potentially negligent – didn’t rise to the level of reckless disregard.

The Florida Tort Claims Act

As noted above, the FTCA does not provide for government immunity for the negligent actions of government employees. However, unless a plaintiff can show that the government employee’s actions showed a “willful disregard for human rights or safety,” they will only be able to recover $200,000 from the responsible government agency. Similarly, as was the case above, government employees cannot be named in their individual capacity unless they are shown to have acted in “bad faith or with malicious purpose.” Thus, under Florida law plaintiffs are more easily able to recover small amounts for their injuries.

Have You Suffered An Injury in a Florida Accident?

If you have been injured in a Florida car accident involving a city, its government employee, or a slip-and-fall accident occurring on government property, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated South Florida personal injury lawyers at the law firm of Friedman Rodman & Frank have decades of experience assisting injury victims to obtain full and fair compensation for their injuries and offer free consultations to accident victims to discuss their cases. To learn more call 877-448-8787 today to schedule your free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Court Discusses Caterer’s Liability in Recent Food-Poisoning Case, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published September 19, 2018.

Florida Court Dismisses Slip-and-Fall Case, Finding the Hazard Causing the Plaintiff’s Fall Was “Open and Obvious”, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published September 13, 2018

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