How to Make an Injury Claim Under the Texas Tort Claims Act
Anybody can face a liability claim under the right circumstances including private individuals, commercial businesses, and the government. When government employees commit an act of negligence and someone suffers an injury, injured individuals do retain the right to seek compensation. However, claims against the government work differently than other personal injury claims.
What Is the Texas Tort Claims Act?
Technically, every state government enjoys sovereign immunity – a doctrine that protects sovereign entities from liability. Every state, including Texas, waives its sovereign immunity to a certain extent to allow individuals to hold negligent government bodies and employees liable for tortious or wrongful acts. In Texas, that waiver is known as the Texas Tort Claims Act. To file a claim, plaintiffs must meet all the relevant criteria listed in the act.
Under the act that dates back to 1969, individuals may pursue civil actions against the government for:
- Motor vehicle accidents. The government accepts liability for personal injury, property damage, and death government employees cause in car accidents during the scope of their government duties if that individual would face personal liability under typical Texas laws.
- Negligent actions resulting in personal injury or death through the use of tangible personal or real property. If the government would face legal repercussions as a private citizen in these instances, the state of Texas will allow civil claims.
If an employee causes a wrongful death, an accident or injury outside of his or her government role, the government does not bear responsibility for the incident. The act does place limitations on the amount of damages a claimant can receive. The government will not pay more than $250,000 per person or more than $500,000 per incident for injuries. It will not pay more than $100,000 per incident for property damage.
The caps on damages only apply to government functions, not necessarily proprietary functions. Residents can pursue claims against entities for acts that are not exclusively listed as government functions under the act without limit. If you don’t know where your accident falls under Texas laws, you may want to discuss your claim with an Austin personal injury lawyer who specializes in the Texas Tort Claims Act.
Filing an Injury Claim Against the Texas Government
If you plan to file a claim against local or municipal government bodies, you must file the claim with the entity instead of the state. For example, if you plan to file a claim against the City of Austin, you must send a notification letter of your intent within 45 days of the accident date and you must include the following information in your notice:
- Date, time, and location of the accident
- A full description
- The type of damages including injuries and property damage
- Copies of financial statements associated with your injuries
- Additional supporting documents
- A mailing address and daytime phone number
In addition to a government body itself, injured individuals may file claims against public officials involved in negligent acts. The Texas Tort Claims Act does not protect officials from legal liability, and Texas courts typically recognize limited official immunity in cases against specific individuals. In other words, if the official acted reasonably within the scope of his or her government role, that official may enjoy a certain level of immunity.
Whether you pursue a claim against Austin, another government agency, or the state of Texas, you must adhere to the strict deadlines and the informational requirements the government sets in place. Failing to provide the right information or to take action within the prescribed timeline could disqualify your claim under the laws.
You can file a claim against the government yourself, but we highly recommend working with an attorney who understands the government named in the claim. Government cases require diligence and a keen attention to detail above and beyond the demands of a typical personal injury claim. After a slip and fall accident on a government site, a car accident involving a police officer, or exposure to hazardous substances, talk to an attorney about your ability to file a claim and the steps involved.