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TX accident lawyerRoad improvements in late 2018 were meant to streamline traffic in Helotes, but residents at a town hall meeting on June 10, 2019, were airing some troubling concerns. More specifically, residents and local workers informed the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) representative present at the meeting that far from streamlining traffic, the finished construction project created what is essentially a blind curve at the intersection of FM 1560 and Bandera Road, as well as a near-blind intersection at FM 1560 and Riggs Road, nearby. If you are involved in an accident of this type, that can be attributed to poor city planning, it is possible to win compensation for your injuries, but it can be difficult without an experienced attorney to help.

Government Liability for Accidents Is Specific

Road accidents happen every day, and while most of them are due to the negligence of one or more drivers involved, there is a subset of car crashes that happen as a direct result of poor road maintenance or planning. Road maintenance issues like potholes, missing guardrails or signs, poor drainage, or unmarked drop-offs can sometimes even be a result of poor planning - for example, using the wrong grade of concrete or other materials can lead to an uneven surface to drive on, or it can upset the water table to the point where signs or lights cannot be installed.

There are also other potential road safety issues that can plausibly be laid at the door of the entity that handles the maintenance for that particular thoroughfare. For example, construction zones often create safety issues through lack of signs, lights, or other clear markings - TxDOT data reports just over 27,000 crashes in work zones in 2017. Another common cause of traffic crashes is debris on the road - for example, items falling off trucks or natural debris like rocks or dirt. The maintaining entity has a duty to clear the road as soon as possible, and sometimes this simply does not happen.

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TX accident lawyerCommuters 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.

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TX injury lawyerOn the night of September 17, a truck crash pulled power lines down all across Bee Caves Road, closing the road and causing a power outage up and down Loop 360. While there were complaints about traffic blockages, the road remained closed until the middle of the day on Tuesday, the 18th, with Austin Energy and law enforcement wanting to ensure a thorough job was done on both the accident investigation and the repairs. It is to their credit that this was done because any failure could have opened both the company and the City of Austin to liability for injuries if any had resulted from the downed power lines.

Hard to Sue Governmental Entities

Normally, if someone is injured in an accident where the cause is traceable to another person’s (or company’s) negligence, the injured person would sue the other in civil court. However, governmental entities are a different matter, because they enjoy protection - and sometimes, complete immunity - from civil suits by residents of the state, under a principle called sovereign immunity. Both Austin Energy and the Texas Department of Transportation are publicly owned entities, which means that they are part of local and state governments, and would thus be covered by Texas’ sovereign immunity laws. Sovereign immunity law is based on the idea that if every citizen wronged by the state were permitted to sue, the state would have neither time nor money enough to govern.

Thus, in a state where sovereign immunity was total, someone who was injured as a result of the downed power lines might allege that Austin Energy did not work hard enough or fast enough to correct the problem, thus leading to their injury, and the state might conceivably have to pay damages. However, if someone truly was injured in such a fashion and the suit was denied, the injured person might be stuck with thousands in medical bills. Neither is an optimal situation.

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TX accident lawyerOn 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).

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Texas injury lawyerIn 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.

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The sooner you call, the sooner we can build your case, secure evidence and get maximum compensation for your injuries.

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