Police Chases And Car Accidents
If you have ever been involved in a car accident, you know how complicated and confusing it can be. You must determine who is at fault, what kind of injuries and property damage exists, what kind of insurance coverage there is to pay for those injuries and damage, and more. When the accident is the result of a police chase, the legal questions can get far more complicated. When it comes to police chases and car accidents, who is at fault: the person being chased or the police? Can you file an insurance claim, or do you need to file a lawsuit? These and many other questions may be going through your mind after a car accident resulting from a police chase. Call the experienced attorneys at Labrum Law at (615) 338-9500 to discuss your case and learn what options you may have.
Statistics On Police Chases, Accidents, and Injuries
Most people only experience a police chase as something on the evening news. This can make it feel like it is a rare occurrence. However, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS), in 2012, there were an estimated 60,000 vehicle pursuits. That breaks down to an average of more than 1,150 vehicle pursuits per week or 160 per day.
A few other facts about these types of police vehicle pursuits:
- That same year, 351 people died because of pursuit-related crashes.
- From 1996-2015, an average of 355 people were killed annually in pursuit-related crashes.
- As of January 2013, written vehicle pursuit policies were in place at all state police and highway patrol agencies, 97% of local police departments, and 96% of sheriffs' offices in the United States.
What Is a Vehicle Pursuit Policy?
Police officers do not typically chase all suspects. In many cases, a police officer's decision to pursue a suspect is based on their department's vehicle pursuit policy. This policy is a department wide philosophy that outlines when officers are authorized to pursue a subject.
These policies consider many factors including any relevant jurisdictional laws, whether the area is rural or urban, how populated it is, weather conditions, time of day, community expectations, and more. These policies are intended to protect innocent bystanders, as well as the police and suspects.
Four Kinds of Vehicle Pursuit Policies
There are four kinds of vehicle pursuit policies that authorities can adopt:
- Discretionary: This policy leaves the decision to pursue a suspect up to the officer's judgment.
- Permitted – Supervisory Review: This policy allows officers to pursue a suspect with supervisory approval and/or review.
- Restricted: This policy limits pursuits to specific situations. It clearly outlines to officers which situations are permitted and what to do in those circumstances.
- Prohibited: This pursuit policy does not allow officers to pursue a suspect under any circumstances. It may outline other methods of tracking a suspect, such as using helicopters.
Potential Impacts of Police Chases and Car Accidents
While any accident can be significant and have extensive damage or injuries, the car accidents that come from police chases tend to be much more severe. The high speeds of police chases combined with a suspect's desire to escape can lead to bigger concerns than you might have from a typical car accident.
A few of the potential impacts you may experience because of police chases and car accidents include:
- Severe injuries
- Extensive repairs to your car or home
- Replacing your car
- Lasting financial debt due to medical bills and car repairs
- Continued physical pain and emotional trauma
- Being out of work for an extended period
- Permanent disability that prevents you from returning to work
If you or a loved one has experienced any of these consequences after a police chase, the knowledgeable attorneys at Labrum Law may be able to help you learn about your legal options to receive justice.
Who Can Be Held Liable?
Perhaps the biggest question many victims of police chases and car accidents have is: who is liable for the accident? In Tennessee, a victim may be able to hold the chase suspect liable and, in some cases, can also hold the police liable.
The Chase Suspect
In most cases, the chase suspect can be held liable for any injuries or losses suffered as a result of a car accident in which they were pursued by police. If the chase suspect collided with you, or their illegal actions caused injuries or property damage, you may be able to hold the chase suspect liable. In some cases, if a victim attempted to react to and/or avoid the chase suspect's vehicle and as a result, received or caused injuries or property damage, they may also be able to hold the chase suspect liable.
Police Officers and Departments Involved in the Chase
Tenn. Code § 55-8-108 limits police officer and department liability in car accidents that are caused by a police chase. This statute states that officers and police departments are not automatically liable for accidents caused by a vehicle pursuit. However, if the police officers and/or department were negligent and that negligence caused the injuries or damage, then they may be liable for the injuries or damage.
One example of this negligence would be if the police department had a written vehicle pursuit policy that prohibits pursuits, and the officer chose to pursue the suspect anyway. There are other ways in which an officer or department may be negligent and thus, be liable for your injuries or property damage.
Have You Been Injured by a Police Chase-Related Car Accident?
Police chases and car accidents can lead to complicated and challenging legal issues. Whether you were hit by the chase suspect, one of the police officers involved, or another innocent motorist trying to avoid the police chase, you may have options for recovering compensation for your injuries or losses. If you would like to discuss your case and find out what your options may be, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Labrum Law at (615) 338-9500 to learn more.