We often hear, see or read news reports about police chases, when police vehicles pursue suspects on our roads. But have you encountered one in your own driving? And if such a chase caused a crash which injured you or a passenger, what then? What rights do people have after car accident injuries during police chases?
That may depend on the circumstances of the crash. For one thing, your own vehicle could be struck by the pursued vehicle, by a police vehicle or by another innocent bystander’s vehicle which perhaps swerved to avoid being hit in the police chase.
At any rate, injuries in police chases are a serious problem. According to USA Today, over 5,000 bystanders and passengers have been killed and many more thousands have been injured in police car chases since 1979. Such chases involved police pursuing drivers “at high speeds and in hazardous conditions, often for minor infractions.”
In Fort Worth, Texas recently — on Nov. 7, 2016 — a police chase of a stolen vehicle ended in a six-car pileup which injured eight people.
A suspect in the chase and another person in that vehicle were seriously injured. Three persons in other cars had minor injuries, and three other persons were treated and released at the crash site on Fort Worth’s north side. Police expect to file charges against the driver of the stolen vehicle.
In Houston last spring, another innocent person was injured after a police chase. The chase began after a carjacking at gunpoint near Wafer Street and Southmore Avenue in Pasadena. Police located and pursued the stolen truck, which later slammed into a vehicle in northeast Harris County.
The innocent driver in that vehicle and one of the suspects in the stolen truck were seriously injured. The second suspect in the truck was arrested. The two suspects later faced charges.
But what about the innocent victims? Who can they hold liable for their injuries?
Payments for such injuries cannot be sought from a person whose vehicle was stolen and then involved in a crash. Most auto insurance policies have exclusions for vehicles which are used without the owner’s permission, as in a stolen vehicle chase.
Further, car thieves are unlikely to have purchased auto liability insurance.
That can leave innocent victims with few legal options — unless they have made sure that their own auto insurance policy includes uninsured motorists coverage and underinsured motorists coverage.
Such coverage means you can seek payments for you injury losses from your own insurance company, even though you were not at fault in a police chase that ended in a crash causing you injury.
Of course, all this presumes that the only persons facing liability for police chase injuries are the wrongdoers who were being pursued. But can police also be held liable for injuries from a police chase crash, whether or not a police vehicle causes the injuries?
For the most part, law officers have broad powers to carry out their duties. However, police may have some liability for injuries in a crash after a chase.
All police forces have internal protocols or protocols set by law for when a car chase can or cannot be continued. These protocols involve the area of the chase, the speed of the chase and other conditions.
For most police forces, such protocols state that if the chase endangers the public, the police should back off. When they do not back off and a chase leads to a crash, police can face liability for any injuries from the crash if it’s determined that police should have known the chase would endanger the public.
Liability in any such police chase injury lawsuit would be shared by the suspects in the vehicle fleeing police. After all, their actions also would have contributed to the crash. In an injury lawsuit, shared liability would mean payments by different parties, assuming it would be possible to gain payments from a criminal suspect.
Clearly, collecting payments for liability in such cases depends on the individual circumstances, and legal help is imperative. For help with your police chase injury claim, notify the experienced car accident lawyers with Jim Adler & Associates. You will quickly receive a free legal case review to help you decide which actions you should take.Additional Resources: