Government Tort Claims
Most lawsuits against the government are prohibited by sovereign immunity. However, you may sue the government for negligence in some cases.
There are limitations to suing government entities for tort claims. Additionally, there are strict rules that you must follow, including extremely short deadlines for filing claims.
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Sovereign Immunity and the Texas Tort Claims Act
A tort is an omission or act that leads to the harm or injury of a person. The party committing the tort may be held liable for damages sustained by the injured person.
Sovereign immunity protects a government entity from being sued without its consent. In other words, you cannot sue the government unless the government allows you to do so.
Many states, including Texas, have waived sovereign immunity for some negligence claims. As a result, citizens can sue the state, county, city, and local governments and agencies for injuries. In Texas, sovereign immunity for specific causes of action is waived under the Texas Tort Claims Act.
Under the Texas Tort Claims Act, you may sue the government for damages related to the following:
- Death, personal injury, or property damage caused by a government employee’s use or operation of a motor vehicle during the ordinary scope of the employee’s job; and
- Death or personal injury caused by the condition or use of property that the government would be liable for if it were a private citizen under Texas laws.
Therefore, you might be entitled to compensation if you are injured due to a car accident with a government vehicle. You might receive compensation if you slip and fall in a government building or because of a defect or condition on a city street or sidewalk.
Determining the government’s liability for injuries can be challenging. For example, in some cases, the government must have had actual knowledge of a premises defect before it can be held liable for damages in a slip and fall case. However, an experienced Houston government tort claims attorney understands the requirements to prove government liability for injuries.
What is the Statute of Limitations for a Texas Government Tort Claim?
Most government tort claims have a two-year statute of limitations for filing lawsuits. However, that is assuming you filed a timely notice of your claim with the correct government entity. Failing to file a notice of claim prevents you from filing a lawsuit against the government for injuries.
The Texas Tort Claims Act requires an injured person to file a notice of claim within 180 days (six months) after the accident or injury.
Many cities and counties shorten the notice period significantly. For example, the City of Houston requires you to file a notice of claim within 90 days after the incident or injury. The notice must be made to the mayor and city council.
In most cases, the notice of claim against the government must include the following information:
- Identity of the injured parties
- Date of the incident or injury
- Description of the damage or injuries sustained
- The time and place of the injury
- The incident that led to the injury
City and county governments may require additional information in the notice of claim. If you did not file a notice of claim before the deadline, seek legal advice immediately. In some cases, you might proceed with a lawsuit if the government entity had actual notice that someone was injured or died in an accident or incident involving a government facility, vehicle, or employee.
What Damages Can I Recover for a Government Tort Claim in Texas?
Damages that might be included in a claim against the government are:
- Medical bills and expenses
- Physical pain and suffering
- Loss of income and benefits
- Impairments, disfigurement, and disability
- Future lost wages and diminished earning capacity
- Emotional distress and mental anguish
- Out-of-pocket expenses and costs
- Diminished quality of life and loss of enjoyment of life
Unlike a personal injury case against another person or company, the amount of damages you can recover is capped for a government personal injury claim. For example, the state government is only liable for damages up to $250,000 per person and $500,000 per incident for bodily injury or death. Other government entities (e.g., local government entities) have caps of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per incident.
Punitive damages are not permitted in personal injury claims against government entities. Also, claims against emergency responders are limited under the Texas Tort Claims Act. A claim arising from an emergency situation is only allowed if the government employee was acting with reckless disregard or conscious indifference to the safety of others.
Contact a Houston Personal Injury Lawyer for Help With a Government Tort Claim
Tort claims against the government are complicated personal injury cases. The deadlines for filing claims are short, and proving your case could be challenging. However, an experienced Houston personal injury attorney will have extensive experience handling government tort claims.