On a recent morning, a San Antonio woman was pinned in her vehicle after a crash with a tractor belonging to the San Antonio Water System (SAWS). She escaped serious injury, as fire crews managed to free her from the wreckage not long before her vehicle caught fire. While as of this writing, there is no indication that the woman plans to bring suit against SAWS, it is possible that she could try to seek compensation for the tractor driver’s perceived negligence. In cases like this, however, there are multiple different obstacles that one must overcome in order to prevail in court.
Potential For Injury Can Be High
While accidents with farm-related equipment are relatively rare, tractors do play an outsized role in fatalities that happen among agricultural workers in particular, with approximately 40 percent of those deaths involving a tractor in some way. Tractors and heavy machinery used by utility companies have a different function than farm equipment, but can nonetheless cause just as much danger to those who are not qualified to operate or be around them – an average of 60 people per year are run over by tractors, and collisions with motor vehicles result in roughly 50 fatalities per year.
If you are involved in an accident with a tractor, and it is not due to your own conduct, there are several different causes of action that you may be able to allege in a personal injury suit against the tractor’s driver or their employer (in this case, SAWS). You may be able to show that the driver was negligent – in other words, that if they had not acted in the way they did, you would not have been injured. Another common argument in such a case is to try to find the manufacturer liable if you believe that there was a fault in the tractor or its component parts – this case would fall under product liability law. Depending on the situation, any of these may be true in your case.
The Sovereign Immunity Question
One thing to keep in mind if you are in an accident with a utility truck, trailer or other vehicle is that a utility company like SAWS is essentially an arm of the government. When trying to bring suit against an arm of the government, you need to make sure that you can, in fact, bring that suit, as there is a concept called sovereign immunity which shields government entities from being sued except under very specific circumstances. It may seem unfair, but the principle dates back to English law, intended to keep the government able to govern instead of being stuck responding to lawsuits at all times.
Texas law carves out specific exceptions to sovereign immunity – there are not many, but one does have to do with motor vehicle accidents. The relevant statute says that the governmental ‘unit’ is liable for the plaintiff’s injuries if (A) they occurred due to the operation of a motor vehicle or motor-driven equipment, and (B) if the operator or governmental unit would be liable to the claimant under Texas law if they were a person. If the woman in the accident with the SAWS tractor can show these two criteria to be true, she would be permitted to sue SAWS – but at the same time, success would not be guaranteed.
Call a New Bettersworth Auto Accident Lawyer
In some ways, having an accident with a tractor is quite unusual, but in others, it is no different than any other car crash. Either way, you need the services of a skilled New Braunfels auto accident attorney at the Bettersworth Law Firm to help you determine the best way to get through what can be a difficult and time-consuming process. Contact our offices today at 888-392-0039 for a free consultation.