It was just revealed by NBC5 that the Dallas school district has settled 680 personal injury claims and paid $2.3 million in settlements over the past few years.
Most are fortunately small injuries, so the recoveries are just a few thousand dollars each. But sometimes the injuries were substantial — and the settlements were not proportionately large.
The Phillips family, whose daughter suffered a ruptured spleen when a bus collided with the family’s car, told the reporter how the money did not cover their damages.
Due to laws governing the maximum amounts that can be paid by state, county, city, and branches of local governments like the school district here, the total amounts are limited.
How do those caps affect injury claims against governmental branches and units?
The Texas Tort Claims Act
Tort reform, or efforts to reduce the amount of damages you can seek in certain cases, is often a hot topic in Texas. In the past, I have discussed how tort reform has affected Texans in posts here and here.
Most notably, tort reform has put an extreme cap on medical malpractice claims. While these caps were created to combat and even eliminate lawsuits, they negatively impact people like the Phillips who are seeking justice for injuries they cannot otherwise pay.
Before the Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA), all government vehicles (i.e. firetrucks, police cars, and school buses) were immune to personal injury lawsuits. This law provides a waiver that allows you to sue in certain cases when you are injured by a government employee. Under the TTCA, your case must involve a government employee driving four different types of government owned vehicles. These types include vehicles owned by the state, cities or towns, local governmental units (i.e. counties, school boards, utilities, etc.), and government owned emergency services. The type of vehicle that injured you effects the way you filed your lawsuit and the maximum settlement possible. These maximum settlements per person range from $100,000 to $250,000. Higher settlements caps apply to cases where state government and city owned vehicles are involved.
When filing a personal injury lawsuit against a negligent government employee, you have to prove all of the following:
- The employee was on-the-clock during the collision,
- Your injury was caused by the government vehicle,
- If the accident had been caused by a personal vehicle, the driver would still be liable, and
- The type of incident is a valid reason to waive the employee’s immunity
Depending on the municipality involved, you are required to give notice within a certain period. Like other car accidents, you can still receive compensation for medical care, lost wages, disfigurement, pain and suffering, and other financial damages.
If you have been hurt in a car wreck, it might be your first time in the courts. I am here to answer all your questions about how issues like tort reform will affect you. I will work to guide you through the courts and fight for the compensation you deserve.