While police officers are not above the law, they are allowed some exceptions to the rules in order to perform the essential functions of their duties. This can include engaging in car chases, which often involves high speeds and dangerous maneuvers. These pursuits can endanger the officers as well as the suspect and their passengers and other vehicles or pedestrians. For this reason, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), most jurisdictions have established restrictions on police chases. However, pursuits still cause many accidents, some of which result in tragedy.
If you or a loved one suffered injuries in Melbourne in an accident caused by a police chase, a lawyer can help you determine if you have the legal right to pursue monetary compensation for your losses. The team at Ben Crump Law, PLLC believes those responsible should be accountable for their actions. Call the office at (800) 598-7557 for a free, no-obligation consultation.
Typically, the suspect in a police chase is most likely to be liable for damages caused. However, police should also carefully weigh the benefits and risks of their actions. They must act in a manner that, based on their training and assessment of the situation, best suits the interest of public safety.
A suspect may engage in reckless driving as they are being pursued and not consider the safety of their passengers, other vehicles, or bystanders. Due to their recklessness, they may crash into someone’s property, collide with another vehicle, rollover on the road (single-vehicle crash), or hit a bystander. In these situations, the suspect is typically responsible for the harm they cause.
While law enforcement officers can also cause injuries or damage in a chase, they are rarely liable. However, they are not entirely immune to the law. If an officer chooses to pursue a suspect when the risk outweighs the reward or continues the pursuit after a supervisor tells them to stop, they may be responsible for the damages that result. Officers may also be liable if they accidentally injure or kill a bystander, either with their vehicle or by firing weapons at moving vehicles where doing so is not to mitigate an immediate threat of death or serious injury.
Because police are agents of the state, like many other government employees, they are immune from liability with few exceptions, as outlined by Florida’s sovereign immunity laws. Even if they are liable and a victim is permitted to sue them under sovereign immunity, the law limits the amount a victim can sue for to $200,000 per claim, or $300,000 per lawsuit if there are multiple victims.
Section 1983 is a federal statute that allows citizens to bring a suit against government agencies when an agent violates the victim’s civil rights. However, to utilize this statute, the plaintiff must prove the officer engaged in reckless behavior or with actions that would “shock the conscience.” Simple negligence does not qualify.
Every situation is unique and determining who is liable involves an intricate process requiring extensive legal knowledge. This is why it is best to consult with a Melbourne accidents caused by police chase lawyer rather than trying to navigate this complex process alone.
For a free legal consultation with a police chase accidents lawyer serving Melbourne, call (800) 598-7557
When Police Can Give Chase
Police agencies mostly have the jurisdiction to set their own policies regarding when to pursue suspects. Some mandate officers only give chase for specific types of crimes. Others give officers the option to make decisions on a case-by-case basis.
A lawyer may find highway patrol officers liable for negligence if they failed to follow the rules the Florida Highway Patrol established. Per the FHP, police should only pursue a suspect if a felony has occurred or the subject is suspected of a DUI or reckless driving. Officers are only supposed to pursue motorcycles if a forcible felony is thought to have occurred. While in pursuit, vehicles must use their emergency flashers and lights and cannot travel more than 15 mph above the speed limit, except under circumstances where there is an immediate threat, the officer is needed elsewhere immediately, or “circumstances allow.”
Officers who are not employed by the FHC are not directly subject to FHP rules. Florida state law mandates emergency responders slow down if necessary for safe operation and red lights and stop signs, but also states they may disregard traffic rules and speed limits as long as doing so does not endanger property or lives. The state statute also states the allowances do not “protect the driver from the consequences of his or her reckless disregard for the safety of others.” This indicates police officers can, in certain situations, be liable for the damages they cause.
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Recovering Losses from Police Chase Accidents
Due to the speed and nature of police chases, when accidents do occur, injuries are often severe. Whether you were a passenger in the car being chased, another driver on the road, or a bystander, a lawyer may be able to assist you in pursuing compensation for your losses. The following are some of the most common types of damages sought in police chase accidents:
- Current and reasonably anticipated future medical costs
- Cost of long-term care if your injuries will affect you for several months or years and you require in-home or assisted living services
- Cost of assistive medical devices
- Lost wages for time you missed due to incapacitation or doctor’s appointments related to your injuries
- Reduced earning capacity if you cannot return to your previous job due to debilitating injury
- Treatment for psychological trauma, such as post-traumatic stress or anxiety
- Emotional pain and suffering
- Cost of funeral and burial or cremation expenses in a case of wrongful death
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Even when car accidents occur under normal circumstances, the effects can be devastating. With police chases, the damage may be even more severe. In addition to grappling with the physical and psychological trauma of a police chase and resulting injuries, you may feel anxious, overwhelmed, and helpless facing financial strain from mounting medical bills and lost wages.
If you suffered injuries in a Melbourne car accident caused by a police chase, a lawyer may be able to support you in this difficult period. The team at Ben Crump Law, PLLC can help you determine if you have the legal right to pursue compensation for your injuries. If you have a case, an attorney can support you by gathering evidence, establishing liability, building a case, designing a strategy to pursue just compensation, and representing you in negotiations or a court of law, if necessary. Call the office at (800) 598-7557 to speak with a staff member to arrange a free, no-obligation consultation.
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