Are Police Officers Responsible for Accidents Caused in High-Speed Pursuits?
A 17-year-old boy was charged with vehicular manslaughter after crashing a stolen car that left his passenger dead in an area near Martinsville Road in Bernards Township. The incident occurred last Friday, August 3rd when the stolen car sped off after police attempted to pull the vehicle over.
Luckily, no other cars were involved in an accident during the high-speed pursuit. However, those types of accidents can occur. Are the police legally responsible for damages and injuries that happen to those involved in a high-speed pursuit? We will tackle that topic in today’s blog.
Liability of Police Officers
New Jersey police officers are regularly put into situations where they are required to make quick decisions regarding possible broken laws. If they believe a motorist is engaging in dangerous behavior, a traffic stop soon follows. But what if the vehicle refuses to pull over? That officer may become involved in a dangerous high-speed pursuit.
When a high-speed pursuit of another vehicle occurs, other vehicles on the road will often be placed at risk due to the dangerous driving of the vehicle being pursued. Even if other drivers are aware of the pursuit, they may only have a brief moment to avoid being involved in an accident. When these types of accidents occur, they often result in serious injuries.
Rules related to high-speed pursuits are not limited to the vehicles directly engaged in the pursuit, but also to vehicles traveling to assist the pursuit. While the police, like other emergency responders, are permitted to exceed the speed limit, they may only do so if it can be done without endangering someone else’s life or property. In other words, they are not allowed to travel at unsafe speeds.
In many cases, those injured in a high-speed pursuit will pursue personal injury claims for compensation against the municipalities that hired the police officers involved in the chase. If an injured party does file a lawsuit, the actions of the police officer involved in the pursuit will be reviewed, including:
- the decision to engage in a high-speed pursuit
- the decision to continue a high-speed pursuit in a residential or high-traffic area
- the officer’s pursuit versus the law enforcement agency’s policies regarding high-speed chases
- whether the officer was negligent in the operation of his or her vehicle
If the officer was negligent in his decision to engage in or continue the pursuit, or in the operation of his or her vehicle, it is possible that the municipality in which the accident or injuries occurred could be found liable. The municipality itself can be at fault for having a deficient high-speed pursuit policy in place that fails to address the safety of those on the road.
However, these cases are extremely rare. Victims usually find themselves unable to recover damages against the municipalities and officers that were involved in their accident and injuries.
Have you been injured in a high-speed pursuit because of a police officer’s negligence? The Law Offices of Anthony Carbone helps those that are injured because of another party’s negligent actions, even if that party was a police officer. Contact us today to set up your free consultation.