Government Owned Vehicle Causes Car Wreck Injury

Attorney Doug Goyen Given how congested the roads in the Dallas area can be on any given day, they can be dangerous. In addition to the normal traffic of privately owned vehicles, there are a large number of government-owned vehicles on the roads. There are city buses, school buses, inspector cars, police cars, fire department vehicles, city ambulances, and Department of Transportation vehicles, among others. Accidents involving city vehicles and other government-owned vehicles are not uncommon.

If you have been involved in an accident with a city vehicle, you should contact and hire a personal injury lawyer in your area as soon as possible. In your case, our firm can help you get the compensation you deserve. When filing a claim with government-owned vehicles, time limits run much faster, so don’t wait. Call us at (972) 599 4100 to speak to our Dallas auto accident attorney regarding your collision with the government-owned vehicle, we will get started on your case right away.

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THERE IS NO GOVERNMENT IMMUNITY IN TEXAS FOR CITY VEHICLE ACCIDENTS

In general, the government is immune from legal action. This is known as Sovereign Immunity. Unless there is an exception to this general rule, you cannot sue or collect against a government entity.

Car accidents are an exception to this rule. The Texas Tort Claims Act, Title 5, Chapter 101 of the Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code, makes an exception to governmental immunity in the case of car accidents.

The Texas Tort Claims Act allows for claims if the damage was caused by motorized equipment. This equates to car accidents. It also allows for claims for personal injury or death caused by the government’s use of personal or real property – this applies again to car accident cases.

To establish a car accident injury case against a government entity, it must be demonstrated that the operator of the government vehicle was on the job (in the course and scope of their employment) and that if they had caused the damage or injury while acting as a private individual, they would be held liable.

In the Texas Tort Claims Act cases involving car accidents, property damage, injury, and death are recoverable under Texas law. In auto accident injury cases, there is a $250,000 per person and $500,000 per occurrence limit. The Act limits their liability for property damage to motor vehicles to $100,000 per accident.

TIME LIMIT IS VERY SHORT

Attorney Doug Goyen Under the Tort Claims Act section 101.101, you have 6 months from the date of the accident to file a notice of claim against a government entity in Texas. Details about when, where, and what the claims are for, such as injury and other damage, as well as how the car accident happened, must be included. In some cities, the time limit is even shorter.

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CAN YOU SUE A GOVERNMENT AGENCY FOR CAR ACCIDENT INJURIES?

You must file a claim for your city vehicle injury accident as soon as possible. You must file your claim as soon as possible and correctly. You’ll need to hire a lawyer who has prior experience filing claims and lawsuits against government entities. For over 20 years, attorney Doug Goyen has handled car accident injury claims against government entities.

We can assist you if you were injured in a car accident caused by a government vehicle. You are entitled to compensation for your injuries, but you must contact us as soon as possible to avoid losing any rights you may have in your case. Call us at (972) 599 4100 for a no-obligation consultation and strategy session about your case.

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TEXAS TORT CLAIMS ACT LAW

Unless sovereign immunity has a listed exception, a governmental unit is normally immune from lawsuits and liability. In three areas, the Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA) waives sovereign immunity:

1) injuries resulting from the use of motor vehicles or motorized equipment, 2) injuries resulting from personal property conditions or use, and 3) injuries resulting from premises defects. County of Cameron v. Brown, 80 S.W.3d 549, 554 (Tex. 2002); Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code section 101.021.

The plaintiff must plead and prove 1) the statutory elements demonstrating waiver of immunity from suit and liability, and 2) the common-law elements of the cause of action to file a suit against a governmental unit under the TTCA (ie, the elements of a claim for negligence or for premises liability).

I. In General. The elements of a TTCA Claim Are

1) The defendant is a governmental unit under the TTCA. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code section 101.021(1); TDCJ v. Miller, 51 S.W.3d 583, 587 (Tex.2001); Texas Nat. Res. Conserv. Comm’n v. White, 46 S.W.3d 864, 866 (Tex.2001); Dewitt v. Harris Cty., 904 S.W.2d 650, 652-54 (Tex.1995); Harris Cty. v. Dillard, 883 S.W.2d 166, 167-68 (Tex.1994); Leleaux v. Hamshire-Fannett ISD, 835 S.W.2d 49, 51 (Tex.1992); Mount Pleasant ISD v. Estate of Lindburg, 766 S.W.2d 208, 211 (Tex.1989).

2) The defendant owed the plaintiff a duty. Dewitt v. Harris Cty., 904 S.W.2d 650, 652-54 (Tex.1995); Harris Cty. v. Dillard, 883 S.W.2d 166, 167-68 (Tex.1994); Leleaux v. Hamshire-Fannett ISD, 835 S.W.2d 49, 51 (Tex.1992); Mount Pleasant ISD v. Estate of Lindburg, 766 S.W.2d 208, 211 (Tex.1989).

3) The defendant or its employee breached its duty to the plaintiff. DART v. Whitley, 104 S.W.3d 540, 542 (Tex. 2003); Dewitt v. Harris Cty., 904 S.W.2d 650, 652-54 (Tex.1995); Harris Cty. V. Dillard, 883 S.W.2d 166, 167-68 (Tex.1994); Leleaux v. Hamshire-Fannett ISD, 835 S.W.2d 49, 51 (Tex.1992); Mount Pleasant ISD v. Estate of Lindburg, 766 S.W.2d 208, 211 (Tex.1989).

4) The plaintiff’s injury was proximately caused by

  1. the operation or use of a motor-driven vehicle or motor-driven equipment.
  2. the use or condition of personal property.
  3. an inmate’s operation or use of a motor-driven vehicle or motor-driven equipment.
  4. a premises defect.
  5. a special defect.
  6. a traffic-control device.
  7. a premises defect after payment for use of the premises, or
  8. a premises defect on real property used for recreational purposes. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code section 101.021(1); TDCJ v. Miller, 51 S.W.3d 583, 587 (Tex.2001); Texas Nat. Res. Conserv. Comm’n v. White, 46 S.W.3d 864, 866 (Tex.2001); Dewitt v. Harris Cty., 904 S.W.2d 650, 652-54 (Tex.1995); Leleaux v. Hamshire-Fannett ISD, 835 S.W.2d 49, 51 (Tex.1992); Mount Pleasant ISD v. Estate of Lindburg, 766 S.W.2d 208, 211 (Tex.1989).

5) The defendant or its employee would have been personally liable. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code section 101.021(1); TDCJ v. Miller, 51 S.W.3d 583, 587 (Tex.2001); Dewitt v. Harris Cty., 904 S.W.2d 650, 652-54 (Tex.1995); City of Houston v. Kilburn, 849 S.W.2d 810, 812 (Tex. 1993); Leleaux v. Hamshire-Fannett ISD, 835 S.W.2d 49, 51 (Tex.1992); Mount Pleasant ISD v. Estate of Lindburg, 766 S.W.2d 208, 211 (Tex.1989).

6) No exception to the waiver of immunity bars the claim because

  1. no exception applies, or
  2. an exception to an exception reinstates the waiver. DART v. Whitley, 104 S.W.3d 540, 542 (Tex. 2003); Dewitt v. Harris Cty., 904 S.W.2d 650, 652-54 (Tex.1995); Harris Cty. v. Dillard, 883 S.W.2d 166, 167-68 (Tex.1994); Leleaux v. Hamshire-Fannett ISD, 835 S.W.2d 49, 51 (Tex.1992); Mount Pleasant ISD v. Estate of Lindburg, 766 S.W.2d 208, 211 (Tex.1989).

7) Notice was provided as required by the TTCA. Tex. Govt Dode section 311.034.

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II. Governmental Unit Defined

The TTCA defines 4 classes of governmental units – 1) the State; 2) political subdivisions of the State; 3) emergency services, and 4) other institutions of government that derive their authority from the Texas Constitution or state statutes. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem Code section 101.001(3).

1) The State – includes its agencies, departments, bureaus, boards, commissions, offices, councils, and courts. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem Code section 101.001(3)(A). Central Educ. Agency v. Sellhorn, 781 S.W.2d 716, 718 (Tex.App.-Austin 1989, writ denied).

2) Political subdivisions – Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code section 101.001(3)(B). Political subdivisions have limited geographic jurisdiction within the State. Texas DOT v. City of Sunset Valley, 146 S.W.3d 637, 643 (Tex.2004). Examples include:

  1. Counties. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem Code section 101.001(3)(B); Travis Cty v. Pelzel & Assocs, 77 S.W.3d 246, 248 (Tex.2002).
  2. Cities. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem Code section 101.001(3)(B); City of Irving v. Seppy, 301 S.W.3d 435, 441 (Tex.App.-Dallas 2009, no pet.). Texas Local Govt Code divides municipalities into 1) general law municipalities, 2) home-rule municipalities, 3) special-law municipalities. See definitions in Texas Local Government Code section 1.005(1)(general-law municipalities); section 5.004 (home-rule municipalities), and section 5.005 (special-law municipalities).
  3. Various education districts. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem Code section 101.001(3)(B);
  4. Various conservation and development districts. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem Code section 101.001(3)(B);
  5. Communication districts. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem Code section 101.001(3)(B);
  6. Public-health districts. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem Code section 101.001(3)(B);
  7. River authorities. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem Code section 101.001(3)(B).

3) Emergency-service organizations. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem Code section 101.001(3)(C);

  1. Volunteer fire departments that operated by members and are exempt from state taxes. Section 101.001(1)(A).
  2. Rescue squads that are operated by members and exempt from state taxes. Section 101.001(1)(A).
  3. Emergency-medical-service providers that are operated by their members and exempt from state taxes. Section 101.001(1)(A).
  4. Local emergency-management or homeland-security organizations that are formed and operated as state resources under a statewide homeland-security strategy and that are responsive to the Texas Division of Emergency Management in carrying out all-hazards emergency-management programs. Section 101.001(1)(B).

4) Other institutions. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code section 101.001(3)(D). Examples:

  1. County hospitals and health authorities;
  2. City hospitals;
  3. Mental-health and mental-retardation centers;
  4. Open-enrollment charter schools;

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III. Duty Owed by Governmental Unit

1. Premises Claim. Texas Civ. Prac. & Rem Code section 101.021(2), a governmental unit can be directly liable to plaintiffs for the duties it owes as a premises owner. Texas DOT v. Able, 35 S.W.3d 608, 612 (Tex.2000). Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code section 101.022.

2. Negligence Claims. Texas Civ Prac & Rem Code section 101.021(1). A governmental unit can be liable for the negligence of its employees under the theory of respondeat superior. DeWitt v. Harris Cty., 904 S.W.2d 650, 653 (Tex.1995). This is limited to actions that result in injury caused by motor-driven vehicles, motor-driven equipment, or personal property. Tex Civ Prac & Rem Code sections 101.021, 101.029.

Exceptions: Independent contractors, volunteers, and prisoners are generally not considered employees.

Volunteers exception to exception: volunteers who are under the control of a paid employee are an exception.

Scope of employment: The government employee must be shown to have been acting within the course and scope of their employment. Tex. Civ. Prac & Rem Code section 101.021(1). Dewitt, 904 S.W.2d at 654.

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IV. Notice of Claim

The governmental unit must receive notice of the incident giving rise to the plaintiff’s injury. Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem Code section 101.101; Colquitt v. Brazoria Cty., 324 S.W.3d 539, 543 (Tex.2010); Harris Cty. V. Luna-Prudencio, 294 S.W.3d 690, 697 (Tex.App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 2009, no pet.).

1) Type of notice: a) formal pre-suit written notice; b) service of a lawsuit; c) having actual notice of a claim. Colquitt, 324 S.W.3d at 541.

  1. Most governmental units: Presuit written notice must state 1) the damage or injury claimed; 2) the time and place of the incident; 3) the incident itself. Tex. Civ. Prac & Rem Code section 101.101(a)(1).
  2. Cities: It depends on the city charter. Most city charters require 1) when, where, and how the injury or damage occurred, 2) the extent of the plaintiff’s injury and the amount of damage sustained; 3) the amount for which the plaintiff will settle; 4) the plaintiff’s address on the date the claim was presented; 5) the plaintiff’s address for the six months immediately prior to the occurrence; 6) the names and addresses of witnesses on whom the plaintiff relies to establish their claim.
  3. No verification required. It is not necessary to verify the notice, even if the charter requires it. Walker v. City of Houston, 617 S.W.2d 673, 674 (Tex. 1981); Artco-Bell Corp. V. City of Temple, 616 S.W.2d 190, 193-94 (Tex.1981).

The time limit for Notice:

  1. For State: must give the State notice no later than 6 months after the day the incident giving rise to the claim occurred. Tex. Civ. Prac & Rem Code section 101.101(a).
  2. For County: In suits against counties, the six-month notice provision under section 101.101(a) applies. Dallas Cty. V. Coutee, 233 S.W.3d 542, 545-46 (Tex.App.-Dallas 2007, pet. Denied).
  3. For Cities: Many cities have a charter or ordinance with deadlines shorter than the TTCA (often 90 days, depending on the charter). City of Houston v. Torres, 621 S.W.2d 588, 589 (Tex.1981)(city notice provision of 90 days).

The Texas Tort Claims Act is complicated and has many sets and subsets of laws, many different time-limits depending on the governmental entity, and many different requirements depending on the type of case you may have. If you have been injured in an auto accident by someone driving for a governmental unit you need to hire a lawyer as quickly as possible. Time limits are ticking. You have much less time than you realize and much more to lose by missing those deadlines. Contact a lawyer from our office today, we can get started on your case immediately.

FREE CASE REVIEWS

If you are looking for a car crash lawyer in Dallas, call (972) 599 4100. We offer free phone consultations. We also provide a free strategy session. The strategy session includes a summary of your case, legal issues involved, and legal issues we identify as being critical to maximizing the compensation owed.

THERE IS NO FEE IF WE DO NOT WIN

You owe us nothing if we are unable to recover. We charge a contingency fee structured to take a percentage of what we recover. As a performance-based contract, the better we do for you, the better we do for ourselves. This aligns our interests in the case with our client’s interests.

DIRECTIONS TO OUR OFFICE

Law Office of Doug Goyen
15851 Dallas Pkwy #605
Addison, Texas 75001
(972) 599 4100 phone
(972) 398 2629 fax

Directions to our office: We are on the southbound side of the service road to the Tollway. Stay on the Dallas North Tollway until you come to the Keller Springs exit. Take the Keller Spring exit. Stay on the service road on the southbound side and go just past Keller Springs. Our office is the 2nd building south of Keller Springs, located on the service road to the North Dallas Tollway in the Madison Business Center on the 6th floor.

By Doug Goyen, douggoyen@goyenlaw.com

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Client Reviews
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You want a great lawyer who keeps you informed on whats going on speaks with you personally and gets the job done call Doug Goyen. He is excellent & very professional you wont go wrong choosing him!! Thanks again for all your help Mr. Goyen! Socorro V.
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Very professional job handling my accident claim. I had some ER bills, and some visits to my ortho after (and various other bills that kept coming in). I was afraid I was going to get stuck owing money, but Doug Goyen took care of the case and had everything paid, including compensating me for the injury. Great lawyer IMO. I felt like my case was taken care of very well. Thx!! Bernard M.
★★★★★
Doug is a great attorney. He took care of my auto accident claim promptly, and answered any questions I had. I also had one of my hospital bills go into collections for non-payment. I was able to contact Doug a year after the accident, and received a copy of the check the hospital claimed they didn’t receive. I highly recommend this guy. David J.
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The Law Office of Doug Goyen helped me recovery every bit I was owed on my claim. Very happy I used them. They knew what they were doing, and kept me informed. I felt taken care of the whole way. You wont go wrong using them. Arthur H.
★★★★★
Mr. Goyen helped me take on my own insurance company, the great and mighty Allstate. My prior firm basically dumped me, with a permanent injury because the case didn’t meet their financial guidelines for a settlement. I was a bicycle rider hit by a car driver at an intersection, and Allstate was the company on BOTH SIDES OF THE CLAIM. My own insurance company tried to throw me under the bus to limit their payout! Without Mr. Goyen’s help, I would have been left with NOTHING! I had thousands of dollars in unpaid medical bills, unable to receive treatment to correct the issue. He was unafraid and helped me get the best settlement I could … I am tremendously thankful! Pamala M.