SH 71 and Pedernales Summit Parkway has been a problem for drivers for quite some time, with several accidents being reported at that specific intersection, and all of them being of the same character. Whenever the weather is inclement, hydroplaning is reported, with multiple crashes occasionally being observed on the same day. On the morning of February 22, work began on SH 71 at Pedernales Summit Parkway to remove the top layer of pavement to increase traction on the road. While the work should cut down on accidents, it can also help shield TXDOT and the municipality of Austin or Del Valle (depending on the agency working on the road) from potential negligence liability.
Personal Injury and Negligence
Car accident cases are most often brought under a legal theory of negligence, alleging that the poor conduct of another – most commonly, the other driver involved in an accident – was the direct cause of your injuries. In order to show that an accident was due to someone’s negligence, you must be able to show four criteria. They are: 1) the existence of a duty of care between plaintiff and defendant; 2) an evident breach of this duty; 3) a showing that your injuries were caused directly by the defendant’s actions, and 4) proof of tangible injury (in other words, injuries that would require medical attention to address).
In a standard accident case, the defendant will usually be another driver. However, this does not necessarily have to be the case. Sometimes, a trucking company may be named as a defendant, in an accident ostensibly caused by a trucker. Another common defendant may be a municipality, and the most common cases in which a municipality is a defendant usually involve bad roads or poor maintenance – not unlike the situation on SH 71. However, there are some occasions that municipalities may not be sued even though the negligence may be theirs.
Sovereign Immunity in Texas
If you find you may have cause to bring suit against a municipality or government entity like the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT), sovereign immunity may preclude you from doing so. Sovereign immunity is an ancient law that originated in England and was ported to the United States. Originally it held that the Crown could not be sued – the ostensible rationale was that if one was allowed to sue the Crown, it would forever be defending itself against suits and have no time to govern. However, the U.S. government passed the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) in 1946, which contained a limited waiver of sovereign immunity. Over time, counties and cities came to follow suit.
Texas’ contribution, the Texas Tort Claims Act, holds that municipalities are liable for the injuries caused by the wrongful act or omission, or the negligence of an employee who is acting in the scope of employment. This can easily apply to a municipality or government entity responsible for, say, maintaining road signs in a readable condition, or ensuring that roads are kept free of ice. While not every relevant entity in Texas has waived sovereign immunity, many have, and it is in your best interests to do due diligence to see if it is possible to bring suit for injuries you have sustained on Texas roads.
Contact Our Auto Accident Lawyers
TXDOT’s work on SH 71 will hopefully lower the number of accidents seen on that road, but if you are involved in an accident that can be chalked up to bad roads, it is important to try and hold whichever entity to account. Our talented New Braunfels auto accident lawyers at the Bettersworth Law Firm can sit down with you and try to answer any questions you may have about municipal liability and sovereign immunity.