On January 24, 2018, in Seguin, a seven-car accident injured four, sending two to the hospital. The accident occurred on I-10, while a patrolman was conducting a routine traffic stop – two cars collided near the stop zone, and then others were unable to stop in time to avoid the collision itself. Only one or two of the automobiles involved struck the police car, with the others hitting the private cars that had piled up. Striking a police vehicle and causing an accident is not exactly a positive event, but if one must be involved in an auto accident, having it be with a police car actually does have some small advantages.
Coverage Will Be Present
While police departments do not generally carry car insurance in the same manner as any private driver, they will be insured by the government they protect. This matters because Texas requires a certain amount of insurance to be carried, yet many people do not, and uninsured or underinsured motorist claims are common. Recent available data from the Insurance Information Institute reports as many as 14.1 percent of Texas motorists are uninsured or underinsured – which means that if they are involved in an accident, they lack the relevant insurance that would pay their medical bills or that of anyone they injure in the accident.
Being hit by an uninsured or underinsured motorist can have severe financial consequences, which is why it is recommended to carry uninsured motorist insurance. Normally, this is a policy option available from Texas insurers. However, the Texas Supreme Court has made changes to this area of the law by releasing the Brainard opinion (2005-06), which makes noticeable changes to what is permissible and what is not. It altered the scope of what was previously covered, as well as attempting to arrive at an amount or at least a scale when calculating prejudgment interest. This can make the process more complex than it might be otherwise.
Sovereign Immunity Is a Factor
Another possible question, if you are in an accident involving a police car, is whether or not you can bring suit for your injuries in the first place. If you are hit by a police car, rather than the alternative, in many jurisdictions, you may not bring suit due to a doctrine called sovereign immunity. This doctrine dates back to English law, and it holds that the state or sovereign may not be sued – the rationale is that if everyone were permitted to sue the state, no governing would ever get done. However, after the passage of the Federal Tort Claims Act in 1946, which grants the right to sue the federal government in certain qualified instances, other jurisdictions began passing similar legislation granting similar rights. Texas is one of the states which has passed a tort claims act.
The Texas Tort Claims Act grants the right to sue over an employee of the state acting negligently yet “within the scope of his employment” under certain conditions, most specifically that the actions involved have to be involving a motor vehicle. Also, the right to sue only attaches if the employee would still be liable for their conduct as a private citizen. If you are hit by a police car, these conditions would be met in most situations, and the right to sue would be preserved. In the Seguin accident, the police car was hit, rather than the other way around, but it is still important to understand when sovereign immunity would become a factor, and when it would be irrelevant.
Call Our Auto Accident Lawyers Today
Getting into an auto accident with anyone is frightening and potentially dangerous, but unique questions come into play if you are involved in an accident with law enforcement or another government employee. If you have experienced this kind of accident, the dedicated New Braunfels car crash attorneys at the Bettersworth Law Firm are happy to sit down with you and try to figure out your options.