Property damage at the airport; what next?
Most of us have experienced the frustration of not being able to find our car in a parking. Walking around aimlessly, pushing the alarm button on our key, listening intensely for our car horn. Imagine how you would feel when the reason you can’t find your car is not because of your faulty memory. It is because your car is underwater.
That is what many travelers returning to Love Field found last Tuesday morning when torrential rains filled up the lower level of Garage A , submerging dozens of cars and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage. Why did this happen? According to city officials, the water backed up because of a faulty stormwater drainage system. More importantly, city officials acknowledge that this is the second time this month that the drainage system failed and now they compound insult to injury by stating that the City will not pay for tow trucks to remove the vehicles and the owners are on their own.
So, if you are an owner of one of these vehicles, what can you do?
If you have auto insurance, it may cover the loss. Notify your insurance company as soon as possible. Many insurance companies will use a delay in reporting a claim as an excuse to deny you coverage. Also, look at your policy to make sure you understand your coverages. For example, you may have rental car coverage or tow coverage. If you are not sure you have the coverage, ask the insurance adjuster assigned to your case.
One of the questions that we have been asked is whether you can sue the City over this flood. Unfortunately, the answer is probably not. Under Texas law, a city generally cannot be sued unless the claim falls within those allowed under the Texas Tort Claims Act (“TCA”). The TCA specifies what type of lawsuits may be brought against the city and the limitation on the city’s liability. These lawsuits fall broadly into two categories: 1) property damage, personal injuries, and wrongful death claims arising out of a city employee driving a motor vehicle on behalf of the city and 2) personal injury and death claims arising out of the negligence of an employee or of the city.
The TCA allows for recovery of property damage claims arising out of motor vehicle accidents. It does not allow, and the Texas Supreme Course has historically agreed, claims for property damage when that damage was caused by something other than a car wreck. Thus, in our case, the TCA likely bars recovery for property damage caused by the City. Seems like an unfair result and one that the Texas Legislature should address as soon as possible.
One thing to note: We suggest that you proceed with filing a claim with the City of Dallas. The TCA requires that you give a notice to the City of your claim within 6 months of your loss. If you want to preserve any chance of having your claim paid, you should file this claim. You can find the form on the City of Dallas’ website.
If you need assistance in filing this Notice, or if you make a claim to your auto insurer and that insurer wrongfully denies your claim, we are happy to help you.