Police are charged with the duty of serving and protecting the public, and generally they do a good job of this. However, police officers are human, and they, too, can make mistakes – including getting distracted and running into another vehicle.
What happens when a police officer causes a Texas car accident – not while pursuing a suspect but just in the ordinary course of making his rounds about town? Should the city for which he works be held liable for the injuries he causes? Under Texas law, it may be possible for a person injured in such a situation to be awarded money damages in compensation for their injuries, but there are several very specific procedural requirements that must be followed – including the giving of notice.
Facts of the Case
In a recent appellate court case, the plaintiff was a man whose van was rear-ended by a police car driven by an on-duty city police officer. The plaintiff filed suit against the defendant city, alleging that the officer’s negligence caused the accident. He sought damages under the Texas Tort Claims Act. In his complaint, the plaintiff alleged that he had been left with serious and permanent bodily injuries because of the accident.
The defendant filed a general denial answer to the plaintiff’s complaint. It also filed a plea to the jurisdiction of the trial court on the ground that the plaintiff had not provided timely notice of his claim as required by law. The plaintiff admitted that his notice was untimely under the applicable statute but insisted that, since he gave actual notice of his injury at the scene of the accident, his complaint should not be dismissed.
The trial court denied the defendant’s plea to the jurisdiction, and the defendant appealed.
Ruling of the Court of Appeals of Texas
Texas law requires the giving of notice within six months of an act of negligence for which the plaintiff seeks compensation. In the absence of timely notice, the government retains its immunity from suit.
In affirming the trial court’s denial of the defendant city’s plea to the jurisdiction, the appellate court noted that the plaintiff presented proof that the accident report filled out by the defendant’s representatives said the plaintiff experienced “slight pain” and that the plaintiff testified that he was bending down and rubbing his back after the accident. The court concluded that, under the facts presented by the parties, there was evidence to support the implied finding that the defendant city had knowledge of the plaintiff’s injury.
Have a Question about an East Texas Auto Accident?
Automobile accident lawsuits often take months or even years to be resolved. Although many cases settle, a plaintiff must always be prepared to go to trial if necessary. This takes a lot of work on the front end – a thorough investigation, preservation of valuable evidence, and retention of qualified expert witnesses. At Earl Drott Law, we have over 30 years of experience handling east Texas car accident cases. Call us at 903-531-9300 to take advantage of our free consultation – but make the call soon, before your case begins to lose value or become a possible risk for dismissal on grounds of untimeliness.
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