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Government Maintenance ResponsibilitiesThere are many reasons that poor road maintenance can damage you or your vehicle, including:
- Shoulder drop offs
- Poorly constructed or repaired bridges
- Construction zones
- Broken or non-functioning guardrails
- Worn off lane markings
- Signs that are unreadable
- Uneven surfaces
- Pavement defects
- Improper building materials
- Trees or vegetation over the road
- Debris on the road
General Government LiabilityYour state and local government can use special rules to “defend” itself in certain types of lawsuits. This is generally called “sovereign immunity”. Basically, it allows the government to be “immune” from the lawsuit because it is the government. While this may seem a bit unfair, there are a few good reasons that governments do this. Most governments are so large that oversight sometimes gets overlooked. If everyone who was upset with the government could file a lawsuit, it would not only add more burden to the government, it would eventually bankrupt them. That would leave them powerless and penniless.
Exceptions to Sovereign ImmunityThere are certain situations where the government is subject to lawsuits. This occurs when the government has either consented to allow lawsuits in a certain area, or the federal government has instructed that local and state governments must waive their immunity. The Federal Tort Claims Act is the main way that individuals can sue the government for things like poor road maintenance. This Act forces the government to be responsible for the careless or wrongful acts of their employees. This can include situations where the government is slacking on their road maintenance duties. Florida state law also provides this type of waiver to immunity. However, it limits the type of damages that you can recover in a personal injury case. For example, in a normal personal injury case, you might be able to seek punitive damages where the person at fault was extremely careless (“grossly negligently”). You cannot seek this type of damage against the government. There are also limits on how much you can recover in other types of damages.
Exceptions of Sovereign ImmunityThis is not a blanket waiver of immunity, however. Florida law still exercises a form of immunity when:
- The accident occurred while the driver was intoxicated
- A contractor is involved in the accident who was acting within his duties as a contractor
- The fault was really with the engineer or other person who designed the road, bridge, highway, street, or other transportation facility