Grieving Children File Wrongful Death After HPD Accident
A Houston Police Department vehicle crashed into his vehicle, killing him. Now, his family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Houston Police Department claiming that they acted with a “reckless disregard” for the safety of others. That particular accusation will be crucial to their case since Texas protects teachers, first responders, and police officers with sovereign immunity from civil lawsuits.
The Surveillance Video
A nearby gas station caught the incident on surveillance video. The video shows the deceased’s car pulling up to a stop, stopping, and then proceeding through the intersection where it is broadsided by a police SUV. Walter Cooper, who was driving a Cadillac, was killed after battling his injuries. Witnesses say that the police cruiser did not have its lights on when the crash occurred. The surveillance video seems to indicate this was also the case.
The Texas Tort Claims Act
Lawsuits against the government are difficult to file in Texas because it isn’t the government that pays for the damages, it’s you, the taxpayer. That being said, there are some cases against the government that are allowed to move forward. These cases include premises liability claims of dangerous conditions on government premises and the negligent operation of motor vehicles.
The Texas Tort Claims Act makes it possible to sue a government employee if they showed a reckless disregard for the safety of others. Claims against the government involving responses to emergency situations, however, are prohibited. This appears to place the plaintiffs’ claim in the crosshairs. Which standard will win out?
The Gross Negligence Standard of Emergency Response Accidents
You cannot sue the government if, in the response to an emergency situation, they caused an accident. Such lawsuits are barred. Here, the state will argue that the officers were responding to a weapons complaint and thus the lawsuit against them should be dismissed on the grounds of emergency response immunity.
The plaintiffs, on the other hand, have already laid the foundation of their case by alleging that the officers in the SUV acted with “gross negligence” and a casual disregard for public safety. They will argue that the failure to put their sirens while driving through a residential area while speeding resulted in an avoidable death.
This lawsuit is a coin flip based on case law regarding the gross negligence standard and its application to emergency responders. The fact that the police did not have sirens on is a very strong argument, but they can claim that they approach certain situations without sirens is the standard practice. If so, they were only acting in accord with department regulations.
How Much Money Can You Get from the Government?
Not much. Claims against local municipalities are limited to $100,000 each, and claims against the state government are limited to $250,000. Depending on which department is being sued, the plaintiff will be limited to one of those two numbers for this lawsuit.
Call a Houston Personal Injury Attorney Today
If you’ve been injured due to the negligence of another individual, you are entitled to recover damages related to medical expenses, lost wages, and reduced quality of life. Call the Houston personal injury attorneys at Livingston & Flowers, P.L.L.C. today to learn more.