Sovereign Immunity and the Texas Tort Claims Act 

By Jun 12, 2021 Posted in Personal Injury

You are rear-ended by a distracted driver manning the wheel of a state-owned vehicle. It turns out that the defendant driver is on the clock driving between locations. Is the driver responsible for your property damages and injuries, or is his employer? How do you sue the state of Texas for an incident caused by one of their employees? The Texas Tort Claims Act governs personal injury cases brought against the State of Texas. Sovereign immunity is the principle that the state’s “coffers” must be guarded from unlawful seizure. In other words, states cannot be subject to all lawsuits or the state would constantly be involved in frivolous litigation. The Texas Tort Claim Act allows the State of Texas to be sued in certain cases including tort claims involving employees in the scope of employment. 

Defining Scope of Employment 

Defining the scope of employment has been the subject of case law in many states. Generally speaking, a defendant government or private employee is in the scope of employment while driving if traveling to a work location from a work location, delivering goods, or has express permission from the employer to drive the work vehicle. Usually exceptions to scope of employment include if a government or private worker with “take-home” privileges, takes the car out for a joy ride after work hours and gets in an accident, or drives the vehicle drunk and subsequently collides with another vehicle or pedestrian while intoxicated. In addition, unless granted express permission by their employer, an employee cannot extend protections or permission to a friend or relative to borrow a government or employer-owned car. If the guest then collided with another vehicle due to distracted driving, this behavior does not fall under the scope of employment. 

Why is this important? Because if the defendant was engaged in the scope of employment during a collision, the employer or government employer can be held liable under the theory of respondeat superior or vicarious liability. Vicarious liability states that an employer can be held liable for an employee’s intentional torts of negligence if the employee is engaged in the scope of employment at the time of the incident. So, it is essential for the plaintiff to establish that the defendant was negligent, his negligence was a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries, and to establish the defendant was engaged in the scope of employment in order to invoke respondeat superior. If the employee is a government worker and was engaged in the scope of employment at the time of the accident, the plaintiff can also bring a claim against the government entity under the Texas Tort Claims Act

Schedule a Consultation With Wham & Rogers, PLLC Today 

If you or a family member were injured in a collision or accident with a government employee or private employee driving a company car, you might have questions about how to file, or whom to file against. These cases can be complicated, involve multiple defendants and might even set precedent in the field of tort law. For these reasons, it is essential that you consult with an experienced attorney in the field of tort litigation. Our lawyers at Wham & Rogers, PLLC specialize in tort law and personal injury cases and will aggressively represent our clients’ interests, even against the State of Texas. Contact us today to schedule a consultation. 

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1095 Evergreen Circle, Suite 204
The Woodlands, TX 77380
Free consultations 24/7
Phone: (832) 592-1108
Text: (832) 413-1428

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