A little over a month ago we wrote about a pedestrian accident in which a man legally in a Houston crosswalk got struck by a vehicle driven by Police Chief Charles McClelland. The man apparently didn’t suffer extensive injuries, but he was hurt a bit and the chief took a self-imposed one-day suspension.
This week we have another story of an injury-causing car accident involving a top police official in the community — Metro Police Chief Victor Rodriquez. The incident has prompted a reporter with the Houston Press to jokingly advise that if residents see a vehicle coming at them with a local police chief at the wheel that they should duck.
It happened last Sunday afternoon. According to the official report, Rodriguez was off duty, but driving a Metro-owned SUV when a smaller passenger car collided with his. As a result of the crash, the car’s airbag went off and injured the driver. He was taken to the hospital, though the extent of his injuries hasn’t been reported.
A spokeswoman for Metro told the Houston Press that her agency’s Safety Department is reviewing the circumstances of the accident. But police who responded to the wreck apparently already concluded that Rodriguez was at fault for not yielding the right of way. There’s no word on whether Rodriguez might face some sort of penalty as McClelland did.
When someone is hurt in an accident involving a government official and a government vehicle, it can be confusing to determine what one’s rights might be in obtaining just compensation for the damage. Sometimes governments will look to shield themselves by claiming sovereign immunity — a concept of law that restricts some forms of lawsuits.
In this case, though, the officer involved was off duty and apparently on his way to do some shopping, yet he was driving a government-owned vehicle. The circumstances are such that it might raise questions about whether immunity limits would apply. An attorney would be best equipped to provide the answer.
Source: Blogs.HoustonPress.com, “Metro Police Chief Victor Rodriguez: Another Top Cop In Car Crash,” Richard Connelly, Oct. 31, 2013