In the State of Florida, claims bills provide a way for victims to be compensated when harmed by a public officer or when harmed by a public agency. Victims do not recover compensation if injured by a member of the government or by a government entity in the same way as they recover compensation when hurt by a private individual or company. Instead of a civil lawsuit decided by a jury or a negotiated settlement reached between a victim and the insurer of the person who injured him, claims bills are used when someone from the government was to blame.
The Florida Senate Legislative Claim Bill Manual explains what claims bills are, how they work, and why they exist. Claims bills provide an exception to the rule of sovereign immunity, which is a rule originating in the English legal code that prohibited suing the king. Sovereign immunity generally precludes lawsuits against public officials or government employees who cause injury while performing official duties. However, victims still deserve to be compensated if a government agency or government employee hurt them through negligence. Claims bills make compensation possible.
Claims bills are bills which go to the legislature and which request compensation for injured victims. WSFU reported on 30 claims bills which were filed in the Florida Senate in 2015 shortly before the deadline for filings. Bills included a request to compensate a former teacher who was struck by an ambulance driver and left severely disabled, as well as to compensate a landowner who had more than 800 acres of his property destroyed by a controlled burn gone wrong.