A person who has been injured in a car accident, due to the negligence of another, may be entitled to pursue compensation for any resulting suffering and losses. There are many legal requirements that must be followed in order for your case to move forward in the courts. Not only must the complaint be filed within a statutory time frame, but also the substance of the pleadings must comply with state law. In some cases, injured plaintiffs seek to recover damages from a city or state entity, perhaps in addition to other parties. When this occurs, there are some instances in which the government entity will be entitled to “immunity” from suit. To understand how these legal notions could affect your car accident case, you are encouraged to contact a local East Texas injury attorney as soon as possible after an accident.
In a recent Texas case, the court was asked to decide whether the City of Socorro was entitled to sovereign immunity from a personal injury case filed by two injured parties. Here, two men were involved in a car accident on a darkened portion of a road in Socorro. As a result of the crash, one of the cars lost electrical power and could not be started (and the hazard lights were not operable). An officer responded to the scene, and instead of pulling behind the stalled car, he parked his patrol car on a side street and turned on his overhead flashing lights. The officer ordered the two men who were in the accident to push the stalled car off the road.
At that moment, however, a woman driving on the same road alleged that she became distracted by the flashing lights and crashed into the three men, causing serious bodily injuries. The two men in the original car accident brought this action against the City of Socorro, arguing that their injuries and damages were proximately caused by the negligent conduct of the City (through the officer). The plaintiffs alleged that the officer was negligent in a variety of ways, including (among other things) the use of his motor vehicle and the flashing lights, as well as failing to take reasonable steps to make the roadway safe.
The City responded to the case by claiming that the court did not have subject matter jurisdiction to hear the dispute, based on sovereign immunity. The trial court denied the City’s plea, and the City appealed. On appeal, the court reviewed the following questions: 1) whether the allegations established that the injuries were proximately caused by the City’s “use” of its vehicle; 2) whether the injuries were proximately caused by the City’s use of the stalled vehicle; and 3) whether the pleadings established that the dangerous condition created by the stalled vehicle was a “special defect.”
Under Texas law, sovereign immunity from suit may be waived under certain identified circumstances. For instance, a city may be liable for property damage, personal injury, or death arising from the operation or “use” of a motor-driven vehicle. The court reviewed the Texas Tort Claims Act and assorted case law and concluded that the officer “used” the car within the meaning of the statute. The court further concluded that this use was the action that led directly to the plaintiffs’ injuries. Based on these findings (in addition to others), the court upheld the lower court’s ruling and allowed the plaintiffs to move forward with their negligence case against the city.
This case nicely illustrates the importance of knowing and understanding the local laws applicable to personal injury cases. If you or someone you know has been injured in a car accident, the best course of action is to consult with an experienced injury attorney as soon as possible. Earl Drott is an injury attorney with more than 25 years of experience representing victims in auto accident cases in the East Texas area. For a free consultation, call (903) 531-9300.
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