Vehicles owned by government units are not immune to collisions. Under Texas law, however, government units enjoy substantial protection from liability for harm that arises out of such collisions. While government units are not entirely immune to liability, an injured party must comply with the notice requirements established by the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, and if they do not, they may waive the right to recover damages. A recent ruling issued in Oswalt v. Hale County, No. 07-21-00050-CV, a car arising out of a collision with a county-owned vehicle, highlighted the dangers of failing to provide proper notice. If you were injured in an accident with a vehicle owned by a government entity, it is smart to speak to a trusted Texas car accident lawyer as soon as possible.
Facts of the Case
It is alleged that the plaintiff was driving a truck with a trailer attached on an access road to an interstate. A sheriff working for the defendant county drove his vehicle up to a stop sign at an intersection and then proceeded onto the access road, striking the plaintiff’s trailer. The plaintiff did not indicate that he was injured at the scene of the accident, but the trailer was damaged.
Reportedly, the plaintiff subsequently filed an action against the county seeking compensation for personal injury and property damage. The defendant filed a plea to the jurisdiction on the grounds that the plaintiff did not provide it with timely formal notice as required under the Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA). The court granted the plea as to the personal injury claims but not as to the property damage claims. The parties both appealed.
Notice Under the Texas Tort Claims Act
Generally, government units are immune from civil liability unless their immunity has been waived by the legislature. As immunity defeats the subject matter jurisdiction of a court, a party can raise immunity in a plea to the jurisdiction.
The Act waives immunity for negligent acts in certain scenarios, including personal injury and property damage arising out of the operation of a motor vehicle. In order for the waiver of immunity to apply, though, the injured party must comply with applicable notice requirements. Specifically, they must notify the government entity of the claim within six months of when the harmful incident occurred.
Notably, however, formal notice is not required if the government unit has actual notice that the claimant suffered harm or sustained property damage. In the subject case, the appellate court found that the defendant had actual notice as to the property damage claim, but not the personal injury claim. Thus, it affirmed the trial court ruling.
Meet with a Capable Skilled Texas Attorney Regarding Your Collision
People involved in collisions often suffer substantial physical and financial losses, but if they do not act promptly, they may lose the right to recover compensation. If you sustained injuries in an auto accident, it is advisable to speak to an attorney regarding your rights. Earl T. Drott is a capable Texas attorney with ample experience helping people hurt in car accidents in the pursuit of damages, and if you hire him, he will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can contact Mr. Drott through the online form or at 903-531-9300 to set up a free consultation.