Brian White | July 15, 2020 | News
The story of a Houston man injured in an accident caused by a METRO bus is tragic. Matthew Leger woke up in the hospital not knowing what had happened to him. He had been hit by a METRO bus and sustained severe injuries.
Mr. Leger spent three weeks in the hospital after the accident. METRO accepted liability for the accident. A bus driver lost control of the vehicle and hit two people at the station, including Mr. Leger.
Unfortunately, Mr. Leger did not have health insurance at the time of the crash, so he is responsible for his medical bills. The hospital bill is approximately half a million dollars. That does not include the ongoing medical care and physical therapy Mr. Leger needs, but does not have money to pay for right now.
Even though METRO was liable for the accident and Mr. Leger appears to be permanently impaired because of his injuries, the amount of money for the injury claim is limited.
Because a government entity owns the METRO, state law protects it from liability for specific claims. If it is liable for a claim, there is a cap for the amount of money it must pay to resolve the claim.
The Texas Tort Claims Act and METRO Accidents
Most government entities are protected from lawsuits by sovereign immunity. Sovereign immunity prevents a person from recovering damages for claims against government entities in most cases. However, there are exceptions to sovereign immunity.
The government waives immunity for some claims in the Texas Tort Claims Act. For instance, the government waives protection for some premises liability claims that occur on government property. It also waives immunity for automobile accidents caused by a government employee while operating a government vehicle.
Therefore, a victim of a car accident can pursue a personal injury claim against the government for damage arising from a car accident caused by a government employee. However, the compensation the person may receive is capped, which was the situation in Mr. Leger’s claim.
Damage Caps for Government Claims in Texas
The Texas Tort Claims Act caps the amount of damages the government must pay for damages caused by a government vehicle.
Regardless of whether the victim sustained a traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, or permanent impairment, the amount of money the government must pay is capped. Therefore, a victim could incur millions of dollars in past and future medical bills, lost wages, and other damages, but he or she can only receive an amount equal to the damage caps.
The current damage caps for injury claims against the government are:
- State Government — $250,00 per person ($500,000 per incident)
- Local Government — $100,000 per person ($300,000 per incident)
- Municipality — $250,000 per person ($500,000 per incident)
- Emergency Services Organization — $100,000 per person (less than $300,000 per incident)
In Mr. Leger’s case, because a local government entity operates the METRO, the maximum amount he could receive for his personal injury claim was $100,000.
Deadlines for Filing Claims Against the Government
In addition to capping damages for personal injury claims, the government sets different deadlines for filing claims. In most personal injury cases, a victim has up to two years from the date of the accident or injury to file a claim seeking damages.
However, if your claim is against a government entity or agency, you could have as little as 90 to 180 days to file a notice of claim. Failing to file the notice of claim before the deadline could hurt your chances of seeking damages for injuries.
It is generally best to contact a bus accident attorney as soon as possible to discuss your legal rights and options for filing claims if you are injured on government property or by a government vehicle or employee.
What Should You Do if You are Injured in an Accident Involving a Bus or Other Government Vehicle?
Seek immediate medical attention for your injuries. Take immediate action to file a notice of claim with the government entity that operates or owns the vehicle. If you are unsure how to file a notice of claim, call a METRO injury attorney immediately.
Keep copies of all records related to the accident, including medical records, letters, notices, and other information received from the government. Avoid making statements without talking to an attorney. Anything you say could have an impact on the outcome of your case.
Follow the treatment plan from your doctor. Failing to follow through with your medical treatment could cause your injuries to worsen. It could also hurt your injury claim.
Whenever in doubt, call an attorney. Injury cases involving the government are very complex. Having an attorney on your side can relieve stress and help protect your legal right to fair compensation for your injuries and damages.