specifically waived immunity for collisions with public vehicles. Other jurisdictions waive immunity to the extent the
government entity procured insurance
for the specific risk at issue. Thus, if the
general tort claim act in your jurisdiction
does now allow for recovery, be sure to
keep looking for another waiver of immunity that may nonetheless be applicable to your claim.
When do claims need
to be filed?
In addition to reviewing the substantive
scope of a waiver, most tort claim acts
that waive immunity also statutorily alter
the deadlines for filing claims. The normal statute of limitations period is often
shortened to require prompt action by
Under federal law, claims must be sub-
mitted within two years of the loss or
within six months of the claim being for-
mally denied, whichever period is short-
er. Additionally, the Federal Tort Claims
Act requires that claims be submitted to
the appropriate government agency for
review before a lawsuit can be initiated.
Thus, claims involving government enti-
ties often require immediate attention
so that agency review can be completed
prior to the running of any time limita-
tion. Failure to adhere to notice and filing
requirements could result in a complete
bar of the claim.
How much of the claim does
waiver extend to?
Assuming there is an applicable waiver
of immunity and the deadline for filing
has not yet passed, the claim for damages
may still be limited. Many jurisdictions
impose a cap on all claims against government entities.
In Florida, claims are capped at
$200,000 per person and $300,000 per in-
cident. [Fla. Stat. § 768.28( 5)] Payments
in excess of the statutory cap can only
be made with approval of the legislature.
Additionally, the waiver of immunity in
most jurisdictions does not apply to pre-
judgment interest or punitive damages.
It is important to keep these limitations
in mind when assessing claim value and
authorizing investigative costs.
Four simple questions can focus the
evaluation of claims involving government entities and will inform any decision to forgo recovery efforts if sovereign
immunity truly bars a claim. More importantly, by asking “Who, What, When,
and How Much?” a diligent subrogation
professional can minimize lost opportunities and maximize recovery.
Jessica M. Skarin is a senior associate in the
Tampa, Fla., office of Butler Weihmuller Katz
Craig LLP, and specializes in subrogation
involving large losses of all types, including
claims for product liability, fire spread,
construction defects, and indemnity, as well
as negligent hiring and supervision.
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