HPD cruiser causes wrong way accident on Fulton Street

Early this morning a Houston Police Department officer caused a wrong-way head on car accident, colliding with a pickup truck in a construction zone. The crash happened on Fulton Street at Bennington Street. HPD says a patrol unit occupied by two officers was responding to a Code 1 call and had its emergency lights on when it turned north on Fulton, not realizing the street was one-way southbound due to construction. The police car hit an oncoming pickup truck, sending the pickup driver and one of the officers to hospital. Apparently the underlying matter the patrol unit was responding to was a vehicle pursuit in the nearby area. Channel 2’s story is here.
Hopefully the City of Houston will take care of the truck owner’s medical expenses and the damage to his vehicle. Under Texas law, units of government have immunity from being sued in most circumstances, however the Texas Tort Claims Act provides exceptions to sovereign immunity, including negligence caused by a government employee while operating a motor driven vehicle. If the government employee happens to be a police officer responding to an emergency call with lights and sirens however, the person injured in the accident caused by the police officer would have to show either that the officer did not act in conformity with an emergency action law, or was acting with conscious indifference or reckless disregard for the safety of others. (See CPRC Sec. 101.055 (2) below). That can be a difficult burden to carry for someone looking to recover their damages from an accident caused by a Texas peace officer responding to an emergency call.
Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code Sec. 101.055. CERTAIN GOVERNMENTAL FUNCTIONS. This chapter does not apply to a claim arising: (1) in connection with the assessment or collection of taxes by a governmental unit; (2) from the action of an employee while responding to an emergency call or reacting to an emergency situation if the action is in compliance with the laws and ordinances applicable to emergency action, or in the absence of such a law or ordinance, if the action is not taken with conscious indifference or reckless disregard for the safety of others; or (3) from the failure to provide or the method of providing police or fire protection.

Photo credit: KHOU

Photo credit: KHOU

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