Here’s a horrible twist on the carnage of DWI wrecks: a Fort Worth police officer has been indicted on charges of manslaughter for crashing into a car while speeding to help another officer with a DWI suspect.
How did this tragedy happen?
Officer Christopher Bolling was allegedly traveling at a speed of 86 milies an hour — almost twice the 45 miles per hour limit — without using his sirens or emergency lights when he collided with a Toyota Camry in 2012. A 77-year-old retired Baptist minister named Billie Addington was turning into his apartment complex on Azle Avenue that night when he was hit. Mr. Addington suffered multiple fractures to the pelvis, leaving him unable to bear any weight for 12 weeks. He died a year later from kidney failure that his family says was caused by his injuries.
The high speed crash was caused after Officer Bolling received a dispatch that a suspected drunk driver had almost struck another car head on. He sped up in order to intercept the driver to prevent more collisions before ironically causing one of his own. The layout of the roadway was such that neither driver saw the other before it was too late.
The Fort Worth Police Department initially blamed Mr. Addington for failing to yield the right of way. But it reopened the case after a protest and determinined that Bolling’s speed was at issue.
Should he Officer Bollinger be convicted of manslaughter, he faces a prison sentence ranging from two to 20 years. This charge is extremely rare for an officer in the line of duty.
Further, Officer Bolling is a Navy veteran, a long time employee of the FWPD, is married and has an infant son. And his wife suffered a death in her family at the hands of a DWI driver. This is a sad case all the way around.
Texas Tort Claims Act settlement
After the Addington family sued the City of Fort Worth, the City Council approved the maximum settlement available of $250,000 under the Texas Tort Claims Act last year. The Act determines when a Texas governmental entity may be held liable for an employee’s negligent conduct. Before 1969, governmental agencies were protected from suit under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. The extremely limited Act, which can be found in Chapter 101 of the Texas Civil Practices & Remedies Code, states that governmental units can only be held liable for:
(1) property damage, personal injury, and death proximately caused by the wrongful act or omission or the negligence of an employee acting within his scope of employment if:
(A) the property damage, personal injury, or death arises from the operation or use of a motor-driven vehicle or motor-driven equipment; and (B) the employee would be personally liable to the claimant according to Texas law; and (2) personal injury and death so caused by a condition or use of tangible personal or real property if the governmental unit would, were it a private person, be liable to the claimant according to Texas law.
The Act severely caps the amount of damages that can be awarded to victims of governmental torts. An individual can receive a maximum of $250,000, all people injured can only receive a total of $500,000, and property damage is restrixcted to $100,00. Local governmental units are limited to $100,000/$300,000/$100,000.
Texas DWI collisions shockingly common
We have far, far too many drivers who are intoxicated or stoned. Every 53 minutes in America, someone is killed in a drunk driving crash; every 90 seconds, someone is injured because of this entirely preventable crime. And we here in Texas lead the nation with 1,213 people fatalities, 16,882 injuries, and over 25,000 alcohol related crashes just in 2011. That’s inexcusable.
We have excellent police departments in the DFW area and of course I enthusiastically support their efforts in arrest drunk drivers. But they need to do so responsibly so that innocent drivers are not injured or, God forbid, killed as a result.
If you have been injured in a Fort Worth automobile or truck accident and want to hire an experienced Board Certified personal injury attorney who will provide you with compassionate legal representation, contact my office today to schedule a free initial consultation.