Texas Court Analyzes Police Officer Immunity for Collisions

All licensed Texas drivers have a duty to operate their vehicles in a safe manner, including police officers. While police officers are not invulnerable to being involved in collisions, they are largely immune from liability. Recently, a Texas court discussed what a police officer must show to demonstrate they are entitled to immunity, in City of San Antonio v. Riojas, No. 20-0293, a case in which the plaintiff sought damages after he sustained injuries in a motorcycle crash involving a police cruiser. If you were hurt while riding a motorcycle, you might be owed damages, and you should speak to a seasoned Texas motorcycle accident lawyer regarding your rights.

The Subject Accident

It is alleged that a police officer employed by the defendant city was driving on a Texas highway that had three lanes of traffic traveling in each direction. He was preparing to exit the highway when he noticed traffic slowed down markedly due to a white sedan crossing all three lanes and then making a sharp turn to leave the highway. The officer pulled to the shoulder and activated his patrol lights to warn approaching drivers of the sudden slowdown of traffic.

It is reported that the plaintiff was riding a motorcycle on the highway in the direction of the defendant. The car in front of him slowed down, and he attempted to brake but lost control of his motorcycle and crashed. The plaintiff subsequently filed a lawsuit against the defendant, arguing that the officer’s negligent operation of his emergency lights caused the collision. The defendant filed a plea to jurisdiction, averring that the officer was entitled to official immunity. The trial court denied the defendant’s plea, and the appellate court affirmed. The defendant then sought further review.

Police Officer Immunity for Collisions

Pursuant to Texas law, if an employee is cloaked from liability via official immunity, they will not be held personally liable to a claimant, and the government will retain its sovereign immunity. In the subject case, the defendant argued that the officer’s decision to activate his patrol lights was protected by official immunity.

The court explained that official immunity is an affirmative defense available to all government employees that undertake discretionary functions within their authority in good faith. Here, the plaintiff conceded that the officer was engaged in a discretionary function when he turned his patrol lights on but argued that the defendant failed to conclusively establish that he did so in good faith. The court disagreed, noting that the officer only had to show that he acted as a reasonably prudent officer would in the same situation to demonstrate good faith. Thus, the court reversed the lower court ruling.

Confer with a Knowledgeable Texas Attorney About Your Accident

Motorcycle collisions can cause extensive injuries, and in many cases, people hurt in such accidents can recover damages. If you were involved in a motorcycle crash, it is in your best interest to confer with an attorney to discuss what damages you may be able to recover. Earl T. Drott is a knowledgeable Texas lawyer with the skills and experience needed to achieve successful outcomes, and if you engage his services, he will advocate aggressively on your behalf. You can reach Mr. Drott via the online form or at 903-531-9300 to set up a free meeting.

 

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