You are in your car sitting at a red light. Suddenly, a city garbage truck rear ends you. As your vehicle is plowed into the intersection, you lose consciousness. You are badly hurt and may never return to work. What now? Are there different rules for injury claims against the government?
In our sample scenario, the accident was caused by a city employee driving a government owned vehicle. Texas law has a specific section dedicated to governmental liability. It provides a broad-based definition of “governmental units” to include local and state agencies, as well as school and utility districts. Other public entities fall under this classification. An experienced personal injury attorney will determine if your prospective claim is against the government. Learn why this is important.
Governmental Units and Liability
Personal injury claims against governmental units fall into two major categories. According to the Texas Tort Claims Act, Section 101.021, the government entity is responsible for the negligence of its employee who causes property damage, personal injury or wrongful death in these circumstances:
- Accidents involving a motor vehicle or motorized equipment: The test is whether the employee would have been held personally liable if the negligent action did not occur while they were working.
- Accidents caused by a condition or use of tangible personal or real property: If a private person caused the accident, would they have been liable to the claimant? If so, the government may be found legally accountable for the injury or death.
- Exemptions to Claims: The government will not be held liable if the accident occurred as a result of an emergency call response. Likewise, governmental units are not considered responsible for intentional acts of their employees.
There is another part of this equation that is crucial in considering a claim against a governmental unit. There must also be evidence that the employee’s negligent actions occurred while in the course of his or her employment.
Whether your claim is for a municipality or state agency, you should be aware that there are mandatory notice requirements. Some put off seeking off legal counsel because of their assumption that claims are protected by a two-year statute of limitations. Unfortunately, their cases may be barred for failure to comply with notice requirements.
What do we mean? Texas statutes require claimants to put the government on notice within 180 days of any accident claim. Different municipalities have even stricter requirements. For example, the City of Houston has a ninety-day mandate for claim notifications. The City of Austin requires claimants to advise them of any claims within forty-five days of the incident.
If your motor vehicle or premises liability case involved a government entity, you should not procrastinate in seeking legal representation.
Government Injury Claim Limitations
Injury claims against government units also have restrictions on the amount of money that claimants may recover as a result of their injuries. Damages caps for state or municipality government claims are limited to $250,000 per person or $500,000 per occurrence.
We started out with a story about a city garbage truck causing a serious accident. What if you had another three passengers in your car? And, all of you were injured? The maximum recovery for the crash would be $500,000. The settlement or damages award would be divided among the four people injured in the accident.
Preserve Your Rights
Was a government entity responsible for your injuries? You should speak with an attorney as soon as possible to preserve your rights. The de Lachica Law Firm has assisted personal injury clients throughout Texas pursue claims for many years. There is no cost to meet with us. Contact our office as soon as possible.