Mississippi Government Liability in Car Accidents
The City of Gulfport is discussing options for a dangerous intersection, according to WLOX News. The intersection at Taylor Road and Highway 605 has long been a thorn in the sides of Gulfport drivers, due in part to an increase in businesses along the stretch in recent years. Increased support for new traffic safety options are being demanded by local government, businesses and private citizens alike, citing numerous car accidents and dangerous conditions along the road. The Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) may decline to take any action however. If that is the case, would there be any liability for MDOT for failing to take any remedial action for a dangerous intersection?
Government agencies may be a party named in a suit when a car accident occurs if there were dangerous conditions on the road that contributed to the car accident. Common examples of these are:
- Failure to install traffic signals;
- Lack of guardrails;
- Overhanging trees and vegetation;
- Faded road lines;
- Insufficient warning signs; and
- Lack of lighting.
While these conditions may be enough to name a governmental entity as a party to the suit, Mississippi itself has a rather narrow definition of when a governmental entity will be held liable.
Traditionally, government agencies and their employees were granted immunity from tort claims brought against them. Today however these immunities have almost been universally waived or limited in some form or another by every state legislature. In Mississippi, these types of claims are governed by the Mississippi Tort Claims Act (MTCA).
The MTCA provides the exclusive civil remedy against a governmental entity or its employees for torts, and although it waives immunity for tort actions, it also prescribes certain exemptions from the waiver of immunity. This means that a governmental entity can retain immunity from tort actions under a number of circumstances.
Chief among these circumstances when a government agency will retain immunity from tort claims is when the entity is exercising or refusing to exercise or perform a discretionary function or duty. This includes circumstances such as refusing to purchase equipment, constructing or maintain facilities, hiring personnel or providing other governmental services.
Immunity and Your Car Accident
Applying the law to the context of a car accident caused by dangerous conditions on a road, there are very few circumstances under Mississippi law where a tort claim against a governmental entity would be successful. Using the Taylor Road/Highway 605 as a real life example, it is unlikely that a court would hold MDOT or its employees liable for any accidents caused there if, at the agencies discretion, they refused to construct a traffic light there or put up warning signs as the agency could be immune under the MTCA.
This may come as a hard pill to swallow for frustrated drivers and anyone injured at a dangerous intersection, but unless MDOT violated a duty of care by acting recklessly or negligently it is unlikely that a driver injured in a car accident due to unsafe conditions on the road could collect against a governmental entity in Mississippi. This does not mean that it is impossible, however, and the only way to be sure that is the case is to consult with experienced local attorneys who deal with such issues on a regular basis.
The lawyers at the Law Offices of Judy Guice in Biloxi have years of experience in handling auto accidents. Contact us at (228) 374-9787 or visit us online to schedule a consultation. We will put their knowledge and skills to work for you in your time of need.