Can You File a Personal Injury Lawsuit Against the Government in Dallas, Texas?
The short answer is yes, you can sue the Texas state government for personal injury in Dallas. Keep in mind that in Texas, all cities, counties, and agencies are subdivisions of the Texas state government. Essentially, you can sue all of these actors under the same terms that you can sue the State of Texas, with a few local variations.
The Principle of Sovereign Immunity
The ancient Latin legal principle of rex non potest peccare translates into English as ‘the king can do no wrong.’ In practice, all that really means is that you can’t sue the government without its permission.
That might sound unfair, but it makes sense when you think about it. After all, it is John Q. Taxpayer who funds the government. If you sue the government for monetary damages, you are essentially suing all of its taxpayers, including yourself.
The Texas Tort Claims Act
The Texas Tort Claims Act is the statute that waives sovereign immunity. All that means is that you can sue the government after all, but only within limitations established by the terms of the Texas Tort Claims Act. This statute allows most personal injury claims, subject to special conditions and limitations.
Permissible Grounds for a Personal Injury Lawsuit
The Texas Tort Claims Act waives sovereign immunity and allows you to sue for the following types of personal injury claims:
- Property damage, personal injury, or wrongful death caused by a state government employee’s use of a motor vehicle in the course of their employment duties.
- Personal injury or wrongful death caused by the condition or use of property. The test is whether the circumstances were such that a private individual would have borne personal injury liability under Texas law for doing the same thing. If the answer is yes, the government is liable for the claim.
Since not all lawsuits are personal injury lawsuits, there are many other grounds for lawsuits against state government entities.
The Notice Requirement
Claims against state government entities involve an important layer of bureaucracy: notice. You must notify the government of your claim within 180 days of the accident that generated your injury. If you don’t, the effect will be just the same as if you missed the statute of limitations deadline, meaning your claim will die.
It’s important to remember that individual cities and counties can shorten the notice period even further. Dallas has not shortened this six-month period, although some other Texas cities have (Houston offers only a 90-day window of opportunity, for example). For a tort claim against the City of Dallas, you must file a Notice of Claim. The notice must include information about:
- The damage,
- The nature of the Injury,
- The names of the injured parties,
- A description of the accident, and
- The time and location of the accident.
There is no notice requirement if the government had actual knowledge of your claim, but it’s to send the notice anyway.
The Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations deadline for taking a claim to court is two years after the date of the accident. Missing the six-month notice deadline, however, will kill your claim earlier than that.
Remember, then, that when you’re suing the government, you have two deadlines: the six-month notice deadline and the two-year statute of limitations deadline.
Limitations on Damages
The law limits the amount of damages you can collect from the government. If you’re suing the state government, you can only sue an individual for up to $250,000 in personal injury damages.
You can only demand up to $500,000 per accident no matter how many people the accident injured, and you can only demand $100,000 per accident for property damage.
If you are suing Dallas County or the City of Dallas, the limits are $100,000 per person for injury, $300,000 per accident, and $100,000 for property damage. You also cannot win punitive damages against a state or local government entity.
Actions Against Emergency Responders
It is difficult to file a lawsuit against an emergency responder such as a police department, especially for a motor vehicle accident. To win a lawsuit against an emergency responder, they must have acted with ‘conscious indifference or reckless disregard for the safety of others.’
This rule makes especially good sense when applied to motor vehicle accidents. Imagine how timidly the police and ambulance drivers would drive if it were easy to win a motor vehicle accident lawsuit against them.
Typical Tort Claims You Might Assert in Dallas
The following government tort claims are common:
- Vehicle accidents involving government vehicles;
- Slip and fall accidents on government property;
- Injuries due to dangerous conditions on public property;
- Injuries caused by negligent maintenance or faulty repair by a government employee;
- Accidents at public schools or universities;
- Medical malpractice in government hospitals; and
- Injuries from defective public equipment or property.
There are many more possible government tort claims that arise from accidents of lesser frequency than the ones mentioned above.
A Dallas Personal Injury Lawyer Can Help You Win Your Claim Against the Government
Don’t try to go up against the government on your own. Even if you understand all of the special procedures and limitations involved, you will be at an inherent disadvantage. Instead, seek out the services of an experienced Dallas personal injury lawyer.
Under the contingency fee arrangement that personal injury lawyers use, you won’t have to pay a dime in legal fees until and unless you win compensation.