Understanding The Texas Tort Claims Act & Its Implications For Claimants

According to Texas Tort Claims Act (TTCA), you can sue the state for personal injury if it is due to the negligence of a state representative and if the injury meets certain distinct characteristics. You cannot sue any government official if any of the requirements for the negligence of the state employee or the requirements for the injury are not completely fulfilled. A government employee can be in the process of completing their normal and expected official duty. The government official is using the privileges provided by the state such as a state car or any other multiple government entitlements. 

The government official can get into an accident while performing their official duty. The accident could have been caused due to the negligence of the government official while performing their duty. According to traditional law, no one has the right to sue a state representative without the government’s permission because state representatives are entitled to sovereign immunity. You need the government’s authorization to sue the government representative. 

Understanding Sovereign Immunity

According to the Doctrine of Sovereign Immunity, the government is not indictable to the torts of its citizens. Based on this rule, the government must provide the citizens with the authority to sue the government official, before the government official can be held responsible in any court of law. Government officials enjoyed sovereign immunity and no lawsuit could be filed against them before 1969 when the Texas Tort Claims Act came into place. 

According to the TTCA, in the State of Texas, citizens have the right to sue the state, cities, and/or counties. The TTCA permits citizens to sue government officials only if they meet certain criteria. For the claimant to have a valid claim all of these criteria must be completely fulfilled. Texas is not a no-fault state because it is a tort-based or at-fault state. 

Individual Immunity From Liability

According to traditional law, an employee is responsible for any mistakes, omissions, or wrongful acts that they make while on duty. According to the respondeat superior, the employer is responsible for the employee. This means that the employer is responsible for the negligent actions of the employee if the employee was working according to the instructions given to them by their employer. The employee must prove that they were working based on the instructions provided to them by their employer to absolve them of any responsibility. 

Respondeat superior is a tool to be used by the claimant to hold the employer responsible for the damages incurred by the claimant. The employee cannot be held responsible because the employee was simply following the instructions of the employer. Respondeat superior can not be used by an employee as a form of protection from personal liability of the negligent acts performed by them to hold the employer responsible. 

Understanding The Texas Tort Claims Act

Before the Texas Tort Claims Act came into place, it was impossible to file a claim against an at-fault government entity. This failure to hold the government representative legally responsible applied even if the individual was responsible for the negligence. According to the TTCA, citizens can file a claim against the government only if all of the following conditions apply.

  • The government representative was acting in the scope of his or her official employment capacity. (The government official was on-duty operative timings and working within their licensed functioning jurisdiction).
  • The government official was not responding to a life-or-death situation, or an emergency, or any other condition that is exempted according to the TTCA. (The government official will be exempt from any liability if he or she is responding to a life-threatening situation or an emergency within their legal jurisdiction.)
  • The claimant must file the claim within the appropriate time after the incident occurred.

According to the TTCA, you can hold a government official responsible for negligence if all of the above criteria are met. Government officials responding to emergencies on behalf of medical institutions or life-or-death situations have the necessary sovereign immunity to absolve them of any culpability for their negligence. 

What Are The Maximum Damage Limits On Liability?

According to Section 101.023 of the Texas Tort Claims Act, the maximum amount of compensation a claimant can recover is based on the government entity that is being sued. Claimants can receive compensation up to $250,000 per person or $500,000 per incident from the City and State Government. Local government entities have a maximum limit of $100,000 per person or $300,000 per incident. 

Insurance Of Governmental Organizations

According to section 101.027 of the TTCA, a government department can choose to purchase insurance in the interest of protecting its personnel against possible claims. In this way, the governmental body will accede its authority to investigate, defend, evaluate, or settle any claim in a court of law to the insurance company. Some governmental departments do not need their employees to purchase personal insurance policies. This is because the entire governmental department is covered through a comprehensive liability insurance policy. 

Time Is Of The Essence

You need to act quickly if you want to pursue a claim against a government entity for negligence. The standard statute of limitations for personal injury claims in Texas is two years. If you are pursuing a claim against a government representative the standard statute of limitations is between 45 to 180 days. Although the State of Texas will allow for claimants to file a claim within 180 days, municipal governments have much shorter time limits.

You must file a claim within 90 days according to the statute of limitations for the city of Dallas. In the city of Austin, the statute of limitations to file a claim against a government official is just 45 days from when the incident occurred. You must speak to a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to assess whether or not your case meets the requirements. Some personal injury attorneys might be able to schedule a free initial consultation to help you understand the situation better.