In January, we reported on a case involving a client who was rear ended by a Texas Forest Service employee who fell asleep at the wheel. The crash happened on April 17, 2011. When Brenda Nolen, of Young County, was rear ended by the Texas Forest Service employee, her truck was pushed into a gas tank. Thankfully, she escaped the fiery wreckage with her life. She had to undergo multiple surgeries for a neck injury that occurred during the wreck, and her truck was completely totaled. Much to Nolen’s surprise, the Texas Forest Service refused to compensate her for damages. In addition, Nolen’s own insurance company also refused to cover her medical bills that occurred as a result of the crash.
After almost two and a half years, Nolen has finally received some justice. Originally, the State of Texas and her insurance company, State Farm, refused to cover any of her medical bills or damages. She couldn’t even replace her wrecked truck. She had to bring a lawsuit against her own insurance company and the State of Texas for the compensation she rightfully deserved. After months of litigation, both sides agreed to settle. Thankfully, Nolen finally has transportation again. KFDX News Channel Three recently followed up with Nolen.
Both State Farm and the State of Texas originally claimed that Nolen wasn’t entitled to compensation because of the Homeland Security Act. The State of Texas and the insurance company were trying to hide behind an anti-terrorism law that was created in response to the events that occurred on September 11th, 2001. A portion of the Homeland Security Act states that employees of the State Forest Service are not liable for injuries or accidents caused while en route to an emergency.
This case sends a powerful message to government organizations like the Texas Forest Service. The Homeland Security Act wasn’t designed to excuse negligent and dangerous behavior of government employees. It was created to increase command and control for local and state first responders during emergency situations. It’s not a free pass for government employees who injure or kill law-abiding citizens. Together with her attorney, Altman Legal Group’s Patrick Scott, Nolen was able to hold the State of Texas accountable. Nolen no longer has to ask for rides to get to the grocery store or to work. She finally has another truck after almost two and a half years and is beginning to put the pieces of her life back together.