The question of liability is always present for most municipal entities. The piece of legislation that primarily deals with liability for local and state government entities is the Texas Tort Claims Act, or TTCA. Many everyday municipal workers are not familiar with this law, but it affects just about every aspect of liability for every municipality in the state.
The TTCA: what to know
The Texas legislature passed the Texas Tort Claims Act in 1969. These statutes address the occasions when and if a municipal entity such as a city can be held liable for damages resulting from an accident or acts of negligence. One of the most important aspects of the TTCA is the partial waiver of sovereign or governmental immunity.
This critical clause partially shields cities, counties and other public bodies from liability. Before the act went into effect, victims could not recover compensation for any damages resulting from the actions of a government employee or an accident on municipal grounds. The TTCA slightly decreased the immunity of municipalities. Now, local and state entities are on the hook for:
- Property damage
- Personal injury
- Wrongful death
The partial immunity waiver was an important step to advocate for the rights of injury victims. However, it also makes it much easier for anyone to file a lawsuit against a municipality. Fortunately, municipalities still do not have liability for damage resulting from potholes, sewers, water main breaks and other incidents involving public facilities.
The TCCA today
As legislators continue to revisit, tweak, remove and pass new laws, the role of municipal liability might change once again. After all, it has been more than 50 years since the enactment of the TCCA. For the time being, this landmark law continues to be the preeminent piece of legislation affecting municipalities and their liability in accidents and other situations.