When Can You Hold the Government Responsible for Car Accidents?
In early October, a family filed a lawsuit against the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT), claiming that TxDOT failed to maintain the highway and properly warn motorists of the highway's condition, therefore causing the death of their loved one. The family claims that other incidents have occurred this year on the same stretch of roadway.
According to the lawsuit, which was filed in Jefferson County District Court, "the condition of the subject roadway's surface was worn, eroded, poorly maintained, and the road surface was not treated properly resulting in inadequate slip resistance."
It is too early to tell whether this lawsuit will be successful, but it does bring up an interesting question: When can an injured party hold the state or federal government responsible for a car accident?
The Texas Tort Claims Act
The government is immune from many civil lawsuits, but there is an exception for auto accidents and other personal injury cases. The exception lies in the Texas Tort Claims Act, enacted in 1969. The Act explains when the government can be held liable and for how much.
A state governmental agency can be liable for personal injury damages when:
- An employee of the government negligently causes property damage, personal injury or death during the scope of his or her employment
- The condition or use of personal or real property causes personal injury or death if the government would have been liable if it were a private person
Unfortunately for victims of accidents, there are limits on how much a victim can recover from the government. For example, each person can only recover up to $250,000 and the government will only pay $500,000 for each occurrence of bodily injury or death.
Government liability claims can be challenging. Therefore, if you believe the government failed to maintain its property or one of its employees caused your injury, we recommend seeking the help of an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Source: The Southeast Texas Record, "Wrongful death suit brought against TxDOT for slippery roadway," David Yates, Oct. 16, 2012
Learn more about personal injury claims by visiting our pages on personal injury and wrongful death.