How To Recover Damages After Government Employee Causes A Crash.
Special laws apply if you are involved in a collision caused by a state worker like a school bus driver.
I just obtained the total amount available under state law for my client. He was driving this 18-wheeler last summer when a school bus driver loaded with children failed to yield at a stop sign and caused this crash. My client had to have surgery to his shoulder and ankle. I have also made his workers compensation carrier agree to substantially cut its reimbursement lien.
But suing state agencies and their employees can be difficult, if not impossible, since our state legislature has imposed strict limitations on liability, damages amounts, and legal procedures.
Here’s how this legal process differs from most injury cases.
1. Proving fault
The government agency enjoys immunity from liability in most circumstances under the Texas Tort Claims Act. That is outlined here in the Texas Civil Practices and Remedies Code. In other words, it cannot be sued.
Fortunately there are two exceptions, one that allows lawsuits in certain car, truck, bus, and other vehicle crash cases.
Another doctrine in tort law is respondeat superior — Latin for “let the master answer” — which imposes vicarious liability on employers whose employees act negligently while performing their jobs.
So the school district would be responsible for a wreck that occurred like in the above case or when the bus driver ran a red light or was speeding. But the district could claim immunity if the driver injured someone while engaged in a non-work related activity, such as taking the bus on an unauthorized excursion or while he is not on the click.
2. Assessing damages
Section 101.023 of the Civil Practices and Remedies Code limits damages for each tier of governmental unit. An injury claim against a statewide agency is capped at $250,000 per person and $500,000 per accident. But damages recovered from a local agency like as a school district are capped at $100,000 per person and $300,000 per crash — often not enough money to pay all damages, especially if many children, multiple vehicles, and/or serious injuries are involved.
Note that this cap is only placed on the school district, not on other at-fault parties. For example, if your child was injured when his bus driver collided with a delivery truck driver, you might have claims against the school district as well as the delivery company and its driver.
3. Giving notice
Injury claims generally have a two-year statute of limitation. But in a trap for the unwary, these are some of the only cases that require the injured person to first provide notice within six months of the crash. Further, certain information must be furnished or the lawsuit can be dismissed.
4. Going to court
Litigation is an ardous process that remind me of the 57 marathons I ran in my 50s and early 60s and why I continue to lift weights and cycle now. Court cases can take years and can be extremely complicated. Depositions take hours and trials take days, if not weeks. Thousands of classes in law school and legal seminars are devoted to the subject.
Suffice it to say that an injured person should contact a personal injury attorney if he has been injured by a state government employee. I only handle collision cases and am happy to answer your questions.