The Florida claims bill process for personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits is once again coming under scrutiny for alleged lobbyist bias. This was after the Associated Press recently reported nearly half of the injury and wrongful death claims bills approved by state lawmakers in the last two years was awarded to victims represented by a lobbyist who is the brother of the state House speaker.
For those who aren’t familiar with this process, it deals specifically with claims against state and local governments. Sovereign immunity laws can make it impossible to hold government agencies accountable for negligence resulting in injury, but Florida law typically allows such legal action to be brought pretty much the same as one would any other defendant. However, there is a damage cap of $200,000 for any individual person and $300,000 per incident. Those who have ever endured a serious injury know just how quickly one can burn through that amount – just in medical bills alone. Jurors may award damages far in excess of that amount, but that is all a plaintiff can collect – unless they can find a state lawmaker to file a claims bill on their behalf to present to the entire legislature for approval. Each damage award must be approved by lawmakers. It is a tedious process that tends to require a lot of “cooks in the kitchen,” but it can be an invaluable means of compensation for those serious injured. Cases can range from those injured in a car accident with a negligent city worker being harmed by the negligence of a nurse employed by a government-owned hospital.
Allegations of lobbying bias isn’t really anything brand new. In fact, back in 2013 and 2014, lawmakers didn’t approve a single claims bill, in part due to the firm opposition of the then-Senate president, who argued the bills were passing based on the effectiveness of their lobbyists, not the actual merits of the claim. Continue reading