Texas Court Analyzes Governmental Immunity with Regard to Bicycle Accidents

Bicyclists struck by vehicles often sustain severe injuries. When such collisions are caused by negligent driving, the injured bicyclist may be able to recover damages in a civil lawsuit. Certain seemingly innocuous factual scenarios can present challenges in demonstrating fault, though, as shown in Max Nelson and Carolyn Nelson, as Co-Guardians of Matthew Nelson v. City of Plano (No. 05-21-00708-CV), a Texas case in which the court ruled that under the facts of the case the plaintiff could not show that the city waived its governmental immunity. If you or a loved one sustained injuries in a bike accident, you have the right to pursue claims against the party responsible for your harm, and you should meet with a Texas car accident attorney.

Factual Background of the Case

It is reported that the plaintiff, a man with cognitive disabilities, was riding his bicycle on a city sidewalk when he crashed into a truck driven by a city employee. The plaintiff sustained multiple fractures and internal injuries in the accident. He and his guardians subsequently sued the city, arguing that its negligence caused the accident and the plaintiff’s subsequent harm. The city filed an answer and set forth affirmative defenses, such as governmental immunity.

It is alleged that the plaintiff answered the city’s discovery requests, stating, among other things, that the plaintiff was riding his bicycle on a sidewalk owned and maintained by the city at the time of the accident and that he was solely pursuing an ordinary negligence claim against the city. Based on these statements, the city filed a plea to the jurisdiction on the grounds of governmental immunity. The court granted the plea, and the plaintiff appealed.

Governmental Immunity with Regard to Bicycle Accidents

On appeal, the trial court’s ruling was upheld. The court explained that under the Texas Tort Claims Act, government entities have broad immunity against civil claims, but there are exceptions, such as when a personal injury is caused by the negligence of a city employee acting within the scope of their employment if the injury arises from the use of a motor vehicle.

The court cautioned, though, that under the Recreational Use Statute, government entities only owe the degree of care that is owed to trespassers to anyone that enters property owned or maintained by the unit for recreational purposes. In other words, the Recreational Use Statute limits the Texas Tort Claims Act’s waiver of governmental immunity by lowering the duty of care owed by a government entity in certain instances.

Additionally, the definition of recreation includes bicycling. Based on the foregoing, the court affirmed that the plaintiff entered the city’s property for recreational purposes, and therefore, the city was immune from the plaintiff’s ordinary negligence claims.

Meet with an Experienced Texas Attorney to Discuss Your Case

Drivers that operate their vehicles recklessly and subsequently collide with people on bicycles should be held accountable for any harm that ensues, but in some cases, such drivers may be insulated from liability. If you suffered harm because of a car crash, it is smart to meet with an attorney to discuss your potential claims. Earl Drott is an experienced Texas attorney who can advise you of your rights and aid you in pursuing the best legal outcome available under the facts of your case. You can contact Mr. Drott via the online form or at 903-531-9300 to set up a free conference.

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