Personal injuries often leave individuals feeling powerless and overwhelmed, and the process becomes even more complex when a government entity is involved. In such circumstances, it is crucial to have a clear understanding of your legal rights and options. A San Antonio personal injury attorney can provide that understanding, along with the expertise and guidance necessary to navigate the intricate landscape of Texas law, ensuring that you can pursue the compensation you rightfully deserve.
Can You Sue a Government Entity for Personal Injury?
The short answer to this question is: yes, but only under specific circumstances. Suing the government is difficult, and you’ll need the help of a qualified San Antonio personal injury lawyer more than ever.
In the vast majority of cases, government entities in Texas are protected by a legal doctrine called “sovereign immunity.” This ancient concept traces its roots back to English common law, with the underlying principle that “the king can do no wrong.” In modern times, this means that government entities are generally shielded from being sued for personal injuries caused by their employees or agents.
However, there’s a silver lining for those seeking justice against the government. The Texas legislature has enacted a series of laws that waive sovereign immunity under certain circumstances, allowing individuals to pursue compensation for their injuries. Let’s explore some of these key statutes and how they may apply to your case.
The Texas Tort Claims Act
The Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA) is the most significant law that enables individuals to sue government entities for personal injuries. The TTCA allows you to sue the government if you are injured by the negligence of a government employee while they are acting within the scope of their employment. The TTCA also allows you to sue the government if you are injured by the condition of government property.
Limits to the TTCA
What You Can Sue For
You cannot sue the government for punitive damages. Punitive damages are damages that are awarded to punish the government for its wrongdoing. You can only recover actual damages, which are the costs of your medical care, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
If you are injured by the government, you must file a claim with the government within six months of the date of your injury. If you do not file a claim within six months, you may lose your right to sue at all. This is in contrast to most personal injury claims in Texas, which have a time limit of two years.
It is important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney if you have been injured by the government. An attorney can help you understand your rights under the TTCA and file a claim for damages.
Other Things to Know
The government may have a viable defense to your claim. For example, even if you were injured by a government employee, the government may argue that the employee was not acting within the scope of their employment when they caused your injury.
The government may also have a limited amount of money available to pay your damages. This is called the “tort claims liability limit.” The tort claims liability limit varies depending on the type of government entity, and it is meant to highlight that the government actually has no money of its own. All its money is taken from the people of the state, including you.
You may also need to file a lawsuit in a different court than you would if you were suing a private individual, and, finally, the TTCA also caps the amount of damages you can recover at what is generally a lower level than what you might be able to get from a private entity, all other things being equal.
Other Laws Waiving Sovereign Immunity
While the TTCA is the primary law governing personal injury claims against the government, it’s not the only statute in Texas that waives sovereign immunity. For example, the Whistleblower Act allows employees to sue their government employers for retaliation after reporting legal violations, and the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act permits claims against certain government employers for work-related injuries.
Each of these laws comes with its own set of criteria, procedures, and limitations, making it essential to consult with a knowledgeable attorney who can determine which, if any, apply to your case and guide you through the complexities of the legal process.
Seeking Compensation from Government Contractors
In addition to government entities themselves, individuals might suffer personal injuries due to the negligence of government contractors. This adds another layer of complexity to an already intricate legal process. In general, government contractors are not subject to the same sovereign immunity protections as government entities, but they may still be shielded under certain conditions.
If a contractor is performing work under a government contract, the “government contractor defense” may apply. This legal doctrine shields contractors from liability if they can establish that:
- The government approved the contractor’s specifications, designs, or procedures.
- The contractor complied with those specifications, designs, or procedures.
- The contractor warned the government of any risks associated with the specifications, designs, or procedures that were not known to the government.
Establishing Liability and Responsibility
Given the unique nature of government entities, it can be difficult to establish the duty of care and prove that the government breached this duty. For instance, government entities are often exempt from liability when exercising discretionary functions, such as making decisions about public safety, resource allocation, or policy implementation. In these cases, establishing a breach of duty becomes especially complex, emphasizing the importance of skilled legal representation.
In some personal injury cases involving government entities, there may also be multiple parties responsible for causing the injury. Identifying all responsible parties is crucial to maximizing compensation, as each party’s liability may be subject to different limitations under Texas law. For example, suppose an individual suffers an injury due to a poorly maintained government building. In that case, the responsible parties could include the government entity that manages the building, the contractor responsible for maintaining it, and any subcontractors or suppliers involved in the maintenance process.
The Importance of Working with a San Antonio Personal Injury Attorney
While it is possible to sue a government entity for personal injury in Texas, everything said above only serves to highlight just how challenging an endeavor it can be. Given the intricate web of laws, limitations, and procedural requirements, pursuing a claim against the government without the help of an experienced attorney is like attempting to navigate an unknown land without a map. Your best chance of success lies in enlisting the aid of legal professionals who understand the nuances of Texas law and can help you chart a course toward compensation.
Contact Gamez Law Firm for Help
When it comes to government entities and personal injury claims, the journey is undoubtedly complex but not insurmountable. By allying with the seasoned attorneys at Gamez Law Firm, you’ll gain the expertise, guidance, and support needed to pierce the veil of sovereign immunity and secure the compensation you deserve. Don’t let the government’s shield eclipse your right to justice—let us help you transform the challenge into a victory. Reach out to Gamez Law Firm today.