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If you or a loved one have been injured by the Texas Department of Transportation or their agents, we at Zinda Law Group can help. Our attorneys have the knowledge and skills necessary to help you file your claim against the state as well as to maximize your compensation for any associated personal injuries. Our firm has handled numerous cases involving the TxDOT and we strive to get our clients the maximum compensation possible, every time. Call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a 100% free case evaluation with our experienced Texas DOT personal injury attorneys today.
The Texas Tort Claims Act
It is often challenging for injured individuals and damaged-property owners to recover from injuries caused by state property or state actors. The reason it is difficult to sue one's own state and its employees is due largely to sovereign and qualified immunity laws. These laws work to shield states and government officials from liability; although, there are some exceptions to these immunities. In addition to potential immunities, personal injury claims against governmental agencies pose particular challenges for claimants including shorter time limits for filing the claim (i.e. "statute of limitations"), additional notice requirements, and damage caps. Given the complexities of filing a suit against a government agency or agent, individuals injured by state actors or negligent state departments should seek out an experienced personal injury attorney promptly.
The Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA) was passed in 1969, as a modification to the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code. Title 5, Chapter 101. The TTCA works to partially waive the immunity for wrongs or “torts” committed by governmental agencies and their employees by allowing Texans to sue for certain types of damages in certain limited circumstances, as defined under the Act.
Under Texas CPRC § 101.101, the State of Texas is entitled to a “notice of claim” for any civil damages within 180 days or 6 months of the incident occurring. Failure of the claimant to provide the state of such notice within 180 days, results in them losing the right to pursue a lawsuit. Additionally, for notice to be valid it must:
- Contain a description of the damage incurred and injuries alleged,
- Clearly identify the parties involved, and
- Thoroughly describe the time and place of the incident.
However, if the State entity involved has actual notice that as a result of the accident someone died, sustained some injury, or there was property damage, then notice is not required.
Statute of Limitations
The “statute of limitation” refers to a state law that places a strict time limit on the plaintiff’s right to file suit in civil court. Under Texas law, when a person is filing suit against another party in the state, they must bring suit for personal injury no later than two years after the date of the accident. However, when a person is filing suit against a government actor or government agency, such as the Texas Department of Transportation, they must abide by the aforementioned notice requirements. This means that the statute of limitations for any personal injury or property damage claim against the state has six months from the date of the accident before the claim expires.
According to the Texas CPRC. § 101.023(a), the liability of the state government is limited to money damages in a maximum amount of $250,000 for each person and $500,000 for each occurrence for bodily injury or death and $100,000 for each occurrence for injury to or destruction of property.
Likewise, Texas CPRC. § 101.023(b) provides that the liability of a unit of local government is limited to money damages in a maximum amount of $100,000 for each person and $300,000 for each occurrence for bodily injury or death and $100,000 for each occurrence for injury to or destruction of property.
TYPE OF CLAIMS UNDER THE TORT CLAIMS ACT
According to the TTCA, there are only three kinds of civil claims that a party may bring against the State:
- Motor Vehicle Accidents
- Accidents involving the Use of State-owned Tangible Property
- Premises Liability Claims
Motor Vehicle Accidents
A governmental unit is liable when property damage, personal injury, or death arises from the operation or use of a motor-driven vehicle or motor-driven equipment; and where the employee would be personally liable to the claimant according to Texas law. Tex. CPRC § 101.021(1).
Moreover, if a state employee’s negligence or omission to act resulted in a state vehicle colliding with another person or their property, there is exposure to the state under the TTCA.
Use of State-Owned Tangible Property
A governmental unit is liable for “personal injury and death so caused by a condition or use of tangible property . . . if the governmental unit would, were it a private person, be liable to the claimant according to Texas law.” Tex. CPRC § 101.021(2).
This exception is most commonly seen in health care liability claims against government agencies but could also apply to the other allegations regarding the use or misuse of state-owned, tangible personal property. See Texas Dep't of Criminal Justice v. Rangel, 581 S.W.3d 313 (Tex. App. 2018) (where the court decided whether a state actor’s “use” of a service weapon fell under a TTCA exception.)
Premises Liability Claims
A governmental unit is liable for “personal injury and death so caused by a condition or use . . . of real property if the governmental unit would, were it a private person, be liable to the claimant according to Texas law.” Tex. CPRC § 101.021(2).
Premises liability claimants are treated as a “licensee” under the TTCA unless they paid to use the governmental property, in which case they are treated as “invitees.” Tex. CPRC § 101.022. Accordingly, under licensee status, the government agency has a duty to either remedy any dangerous condition on the property, that are known to the government, or warn the licensee(s) of any such dangerous condition. If, however, a person paid to use government property (e.g. a hunter on leased land) the governmental agency has a duty to make safe or warn against any concealed and unreasonably dangerous conditions of which it is or reasonably should be aware.
An import distinction regarding premises liability claims under the TTCA is that damage awards are limited to personal injuries. This means that property damage claims attributable to state premises liability allegations will be not be compensated.
Some common forms of TTCA premises liability claims include:
- Falling tree branches on government property
- Governmental building defects (e.g. roof or fire escape collapse)
- Slip-and-falls or tripping hazards on governmental property
- Road, highway, or interstate hazards/defects
Exceptions under the TTCA
While the TTCA acts to allow many claimants to pursue compensation for their damages, it also carves out a few categories of government actors that are expressly exempt from liability.
The emergency exception states that any damages caused by the actions of a government employee responding to an emergency call or an urgent situation are immune from liability unless they acted with a reckless disregard for the safety of the general public.
Safety officer exception
Similar to criminal law’s qualified immunity doctrine, the safety officer exception under the TTCA is a tort form of immunity designed to protect police officers, firefighters, and other emergency responders from liability for damages caused during the execution of their job duties.
Intentional injury or intentional tort exception
Under the intentional injury or intentional tort exception, the government cannot waive liability for a claim that arose out of assault, battery, false imprisonment, or any other intentional tort committed by an actor.
GET HELP FROM OUR TExas DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION PERSONAL INJURY ATTORNEYS TODAY
At Zinda Law Group, our Texas attorneys have helped many accident survivors and their loved ones get their lives back on track after the negligence or omissions of state actors resulted in their injuries or damages. While every personal injury claim is different, our attorneys have the knowledge and resources necessary to help you seek maximum compensation for any associated medical bills, lost income, property damage, pain and suffering, and all the other costs caused by accident with a state actor.
Our firm believes that injured clients should not have to worry about their ability to afford high-quality legal representation. This is why we offer free consultations. Zinda Law Group operates on a contingency fee basis, meaning you will pay nothing unless we win your case. That’s our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident caused by the Texas Department of Transportation, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 to receive your free consultation with our personal injury lawyers today. We are also offering free virtual consultations during the COVID-19 crisis.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.