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$2.6 million award on hold for Kansas woman in government case

Taking a government to court is very different than making a claim against a civilian. Procedures to file liability claims follow separate rules. In addition, many states have capped amounts plaintiffs can receive from a jury award.

Sovereign immunity laws in Kansas and nationwide are responsible for this legal disparity. Governments create laws to protect themselves, which actually serve to shelter taxpayer money, since any claims against a government are paid with public funds. Any personal injury case can be stressful for a plaintiff but with all the added legal complications, government cases tend to be more frustrating.

A Kansas woman became the victim of a bizarre auto accident three years ago, when she and her family visited a beach in a Southern state. A lifeguard, employed by the county, accidentally drove over the woman's head while making a U-turn in a pickup truck. There was no dispute over fault but there has been plenty over damages.

The accident survivor took the county to court and won a $2.6 million award. The county had the opportunity to settle for $1 million but rejected the proposal. According to laws in that state, the county is not responsible for more than $200,000 for individual liability claims unless the state legislature approves a higher amount.

The outcome of the case may take quite a bit more time to resolve. A post-trial motion was filed by the county to reduce the award by $600,000, which was designated for the victim's lost earning capacity and anticipated medical costs. Depending on a court's ruling, the county also may appeal.

Beyond that, the plaintiff will have to file a claims bill with an out-of-state legislature to recover damages above the cap limit. The woman realizes the process could take years. Personal injury attorneys make realistic assessments of car accident claims, so a plaintiff is fully informed about the potential legal obstacles ahead.

Source: The Daytona Beach News-Journal, "Tourist with $2.6M verdict against Volusia faces long road to see any money" Andrew Gant, Jul. 07, 2014

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