Nicoletti Walker Law Group
Clearwater Motorcyclist Killed Sues Police Department & Highway Patrol
February 20, 2015 marked the two-year anniversary when Clearwater local Keith Williamson was killed in a severe motorcycle accident. Williamson’s family is now suing both the Clearwater Police Department and the Florida Highway Patrol for negligence associated with the chase that led to Williamson’s death. At the time of Williamson’s crash, he was being pursued by a police car driving 145 miles per hour and was ultimately killed when a separate state trooper vehicle pulled directly in front of him to block his path.
When Government Agencies Are Negligent
The rules are different when a representative of the government is responsible for negligence in an accident, and such a case often requires assistance from an experienced personal injury attorney who understands the circumstances of challenging a government representative.
In Williamson’s case, the police officer chasing him at 145 miles per hour was found to have violated department pursuit policy but was simply issued a letter of reprimand for it. There is also a $200,000 damage cap associated with the case because both parties being sued (Clearwater Police and Florida Highway Patrol) are government agencies (unless the legislature allows for an amount in excess of this limit through the claims bill process).
Who Do You Sue?
Williamson’s family will have to sue the agencies themselves, not the individuals responsible for his death, because no officer, employee, or agent of the state can be held personally liable in any action for any injury or damage suffered as a result of any act in the scope of their employment (unless they acted in bad faith, with malicious purpose, or exhibited wanton and willful disregard of human rights, safety, or property). See Florida statute.
While it is entirely possible that a motorcyclist can be found partially at fault for an accident, as with Williamson, who was speeding and did not pull over, government agencies are still required to act reasonably and avoid negligence, particularly when it comes to public safety.
Unlike suing a private party in a personal injury suit, you must first file a Notice of Claim to the government, and strictly follow the notice of claim guidelines in doing so. It is addressed and mailed directly to the relevant government agency and the Florida Department of Financial Services. Both of these parties must be put on notice within three years of the occurrence, as discussed in more detail below. The lawsuit itself cannot be filed until after a 180-day investigation period unless the claim is denied.
Stricter Time Limits
The statute of limitations, or time period that you have after the accident to file your claim, is more limited when you are suing a state or local government. While you would normally have four years from the date of the accident to file a lawsuit, the limit is three years for injury claims against a city, county, or state government.
Contact a Clearwater Motorcycle Accident Attorney
If you or a loved one was injured or killed in a motorcycle accident, contact dedicated attorney Mike Walker to discuss your case. Attorney Walker is experienced in handling these types of accident cases and has the resources necessary to help you.