Commuters on westbound I-90 experienced a very unusual phenomenon on April 23; a road collapse resulting from a failed sewer pipe close to Hunt Lane. The main lanes were closed for three days. As of this writing, no injuries or deaths were reported in the collapse, but it is worth mentioning that had there been, those injured might have had a difficult time bringing suit to try and recover for their injuries. If you are injured in an accident resulting from poorly maintained or dangerous roads, there are very specific times when an injured person can sue a governmental entity.
Sovereign Immunity May Apply
Whenever the government is implicated in a personal injury lawsuit, a principle called sovereign immunity is implicated. Sovereign immunity is a principle dating back to English common law (on which U.S. law is based) that basically holds the government – or at that time, the sovereign – immune from being sued, because their attention should be on the enforcement of laws and running the government, rather than defending itself from every perceived grievance. As many other states do, Texas has its own sovereign immunity statute, called the Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA).
Sovereign immunity was absolute back in England – this is not the case in the U.S. nowadays, and definitely not in Texas. The TTCA has specific exceptions to sovereign immunity, meaning that it illustrates situations where the doctrine does not apply and an individual can bring suit against governmental entities – thus, for example, if someone were injured due to the sewer pipe’s collapse underneath I-90, they might sue the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) for their injuries, if the specifics of the situation fit the TTCA’s criteria.
What Are the Criteria?
In order to be able to bring suit against a governmental entity, you must be able to meet the criteria set out in the statute, and they are quite specific in some regards, and vague in others. The relevant law states that a governmental entity is liable to an injured plaintiff if one of two things are true: either (1) the plaintiff’s injuries resulted from a motor vehicle accident AND the state employee driving the vehicle would be personally liable to the plaintiff if they were a private citizen; or (2) caused by a use “of tangible personal or real property” where the state employee would be liable if they were a private citizen.
On top of these requirements, cases tried in Texas have also added the caveat that you must be able to show the road had a “special defect” in order to prevail. The term ‘special defect’ is not defined particularly well in Texas law, but obstructions and excavations are two examples provided – and it is plausible that the sewer pipe collapse would be referred to as an ‘excavation,’ albeit a spontaneous one. Still, it is difficult to be certain that facts are on your side when the law is so particularly vague.
Call an Auto Accident Lawyer Today
If you are ever in an accident involving a road collapse, it is important to understand what rights you have. Depending on the specifics, you may be able to obtain compensation, but the criteria are often too specific to permit recovery. Either way, contacting an attorney well versed in these complex cases is a good idea, and the dedicated New Braunfels car crash attorneys at the Bettersworth Law Firm are happy to try and assist you. Call us today at 888-392-0039 for a free consultation.