On the morning of May 8, commuters on I-10 W between Boerne Stage and Ralph Fair roads found themselves contending with a partial closure of the freeway, which is planned to last into the upcoming weekend. While this might cause problems in the short term, it saves innumerable problems in the long term, for both commuters and for the city itself. If someone were to have an accident, and the pavement being in poor condition was a factor, they could conceivably sue the city.
Road Management Creates Liability
Auto accidents can absolutely be caused by potholes and other road hazards such as damaged signage, broken or missing guardrails and the like. Texas roads are constantly under maintenance, especially given the levels of traffic they see, but even so, accidents still happen. When an accident does occur, the plaintiff may, at least in theory, sue the entity responsible for maintaining the road under a theory of negligence – that is, arguing that because they had an accident on the road, that it was not maintained sufficiently. For example, in San Antonio, that entity will usually be the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT).
In order to recover, the plaintiff (the injured driver) must be able to prove that the defendant did three things. The plaintiff must show that the defendant breached the duty of care owed by all motorists to others on the road, and they must show that the breach occurred due exclusively to the defendant’s conduct – that is, they must show that the defendant did not exercise due care solely because of their own choices, with no supervening factor. They must also show that they suffered harm (tangible harm, such as posttraumatic stress or broken bones – more significant than mere shock) as a result of that conduct. This is generally more difficult than it sounds, but it is perfectly possible.
Investigate Sovereign Immunity Issues
Before a suit can go forward, however, you must be sure that you are able to bring suit against the maintenance entity in the first place. Texas law recognizes a concept called sovereign immunity, which holds that only certain governmental entities may be sued, and only under certain specific causes of action. This may seem unfair, but the aim of sovereign immunity laws is to ensure that the government is still able to function while responding to citizen concerns – many issues might better be settled privately, for example, and sovereign immunity laws may push people toward those types of dispositions.
Even if you are permitted to sue a governmental entity (that is, if sovereign immunity does not apply), it is important to keep in mind the specific nature of the causes of action you are allowed to bring. The government entity (in cases of poor road management, usually TXDOT) is only liable for your injuries if they are caused by a wrong or negligent act “of an employee acting within the scope of his employment.” This means that in order to be sued, the wrongful act must have taken place while the employee was acting on behalf of their employer. If, for example, someone caused a pavement crack while speeding home after work, such an action would not be considered “within the scope” of employment, meaning you would not be able to sue TXDOT for their employee’s actions.
Call Our New Braunfels Attorneys
Any type of auto accident is going to be difficult and traumatic to experience, but if your accident occurs due to the negligence of a governmental entity, it can seem overwhelming to try and hold them accountable. If you have questions about road management negligence and how it might have affected your accident, contacting the skilled New Braunfels auto accident lawyers at the Bettersworth Law Firm is a good first step. Contact us today to set up an appointment.