In late March and early April, multiple roads in and around San Antonio flooded, causing untold problems for commuters and other motorists. While the flooding was contained to just a few streets, I-35 and Highway 281 were both affected, causing slowdowns and damage to a few cars. While the Texas Department of Transportation’s quick response arguably prevented further problems, this is not always the case in similar episodes. Poor roads and highway obstructions are among the most common causes of auto accidents, and in some cases may even wind up rendering a city or county liable for damages.
Who May Be Liable?
There can be multiple reasons why poorly maintained roads can factor into auto accidents, and most of them have to do with negligent maintenance. While not all problems with roads can be laid at the maintaining agency’s door, many can – problems such as missing or unreadable road signs, worn-out pavement or potholes, or bad drainage can reasonably be ascribed to poor performance on the part of the agency whose task it is to keep the road in good repair. Thus, if you have been injured in an accident, and you believe that one or more of the reasons were of this type, the next logical step would seem to be reaching the entity responsible for the road’s upkeep.
Most roads are maintained by either the city or county in which they are located, though some states (Texas included) have their state transportation department maintain highways, while smaller authorities maintain smaller roads. For example, the stretch of I-35 located in Texas is kept in good repair by TxDOT, while smaller roads within Bexar County might be maintained by town or city entities.
While it may seem to be a straightforward process to initiate a civil suit against TxDOT or any other governmental entity to seek compensation for your injuries, the process is more complex than bringing suit against a private person or business, because the government has privileges that make it immune from suit in certain situations. These rights are referred to collectively as sovereign immunity, and in Texas, this concept is codified in the Texas Tort Claims Act, which establishes specific situations in which a private citizen is permitted to bring suit against the government.
While it may seem ridiculous that there are only specific situations in which a citizen can sue a governmental entity, the rationale is that governments would not function if they were forced to answer every allegation from citizens (regardless of those allegations’ merits). The Texas Tort Claims Act spells out situations in which government personnel are liable, including “property damage, personal injury, and death proximately caused” by anyone from the relevant agency who was acting within the scope of employment at the time. In other words, if you were injured due to the negligence of a government worker on the job, the government will generally be liable. In most road accident cases, it can at least be argued that the exception should apply.
Contact a Knowledgeable Attorney
Cases against governmental agencies can be quite difficult to win, but if you have been injured by their negligence, it is important to try. The talented New Braunfels car accident lawyers at the Bettersworth Law Firm will sit down with you and try to work out a plan to try and obtain the most equitable result for you and your loved ones.