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Can I Sue the City of Houston or Another Governmental Entity for My Car Accident?

You might be able to sue the City of Houston or other governmental entities after a car accident. However, this process might be more challenging than you realize. The laws protect government entities in ways private citizens do not enjoy. 

You might be surprised to learn private citizens generally protect government agencies from civil lawsuits. Because of sovereign immunity, a legal doctrine, city and state governments are often immune from legal action. Still, a Houston car accident lawyer might be able to help you pursue a car accident lawsuit against the city in some situations. 

What Is Sovereign Immunity?

The concept of sovereign immunity has been around for generations. This legal doctrine states the government generally is not responsible for negligence claims and other torts. No matter who was at fault, the common law rule prevents a plaintiff from holding any state actor accountable in tort law, even when negligence is indisputable. 

Who does sovereign immunity apply to? According to state law, these protections are broadly given to public entities and agencies. They apply to any branch or unit of state, county, or local government funded by tax receipts. Sovereign immunity covers everything from city police forces to state agencies. 

Will Sovereign Immunity Block My Personal Injury Lawsuit Against the City of Houston?

Thanks to the Texas Tort Claims Act, you can pursue a car accident injury lawsuit against the City of Houston or another government entity. However, this opportunity is only available under very specific circumstances. 

First, two types of injuries could result in a viable compensation case. To qualify, you must show that your damages arise from an accident involving a car or “motor-driven equipment.” Alternatively, you could be entitled to damages if an injury occurred due to a condition of personal or real property the government owns. It is worth noting that car accident injuries fall under the Tort Claims Act.

There are additional qualifications to consider. To be eligible to pursue this lawsuit, you must show the liable party was acting within the scope of their employment. In other words, they must have been on company time at the time of the crash. Finally, there must be enough evidence that they would be a viable defendant in a personal injury lawsuit if they were not a government employee. 

Are There Limits on Damages in a Lawsuit Against the City of Houston?

Damage caps are another unique aspect of the Texas Tort Claims Act. While these caps are not present in most car accident injury claims, lawsuits against the government have an upper limit. 

It is also worth noting that the damage caps for lawsuits against the state are higher than limits that apply to city or county governments. Discussing these limits with a personal injury attorney is helpful to better understand what your case might be worth. 

Heed the Special Notice Requirements for Legal Action Against Government Entities

Filing a lawsuit against the government is very different than pursuing legal action against a private party. In addition to all the standard deadlines that apply to an injury case, you must provide additional notice to the government before you can file a lawsuit under the Texas Tort Claims Act. 

When filing a lawsuit against the State of Texas, you must provide formal notice of the claim within 180 days of your injury. This time window is much shorter than the statute of limitations that applies to most car accident cases. Compliance with these deadlines is crucial, given that you could lose your opportunity to file a lawsuit if you wait too long. 

This requirement is further complicated by the fact that each entity has the right to set its notice period. That means the time you have to notify county and city governments of a pending lawsuit could be even shorter than the 180-day deadline that the state has set. 

Complying with these notice rules can be confusing. Given the high stakes, you should consider consulting an injury attorney with experience to ensure that you comply with the laws in your case.  

What Is the Statute of Limitations for Government Entity Lawsuits in Texas?

The notice requirements under the Tort Claims Act are not the only deadline to be aware of. In addition to notifying the state of your plan to sue, you must also meet the statute of limitations deadline. 

The statute of limitations—like sovereign immunity—has its roots in common law. While this deadline is present in every jurisdiction, the time you have to file a lawsuit varies by state. In Texas, the statute of limitations for a negligence claim expires after two years. The two-year time window begins counting down from the accident date. 

Steep consequences come with missing this deadline. If you file your car accident lawsuit after the statute of limitations expires, you can expect the government to file a motion to dismiss your case with prejudice. This type of dismissal results in you being barred from ever pursuing your case again.  

Talk to Our Attorney About Filing a Car Accident Lawsuit Against the City of Houston

If you were injured in a car accident by a negligent public employee, you might have a viable case for compensation. While city, state, and county governments enjoy sovereign immunity, exceptions could allow you to file an injury lawsuit and recover the damages you deserve.

The car accident team at Loncar Lyon Jenkins is ready to advocate on your behalf as you sue the City of Houston or another governmental entity for your car accident injuries. Call us as soon as possible for a free consultation.

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Author

Ted Lyon

Born in Terrell, Texas, Attorney Ted Lyon, a partner of Loncar Lyon Jenkins, attended East texas State University, now Texas A&M at Commerce, where he obtained his undergraduate degree in political science. Working as a police officer, Attorney Lyon paid his way through undergraduate school, followed by attendance at the Southern Methodist University School of Law. Learn More

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