Who is Responsible If Someone is Killed in a High-Speed Chase Initiated by the Police?

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When police take off after a criminal in hot pursuit, they attempt to protect the public and bring in a dangerous individual. However, a study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that one person per year, per day, was killed between 1996-2013 in these chases. That number is inexcusable.

When someone is injured or even killed in these chases, who is at fault? The liability may be complex and challenging to fully understand without the help of a legal team who fully grasps the extent of your crash situation and your injuries. Read on to learn more about this topic and how it affects you.

The Dangerous Extent of Police Chases

Police officers may start high-speed chases for many reasons. First, they may be chasing a complex subject who has hurt or even killed others. Often, they’re attempting to stop a dangerous driver from causing any accidents. However, some may simply be fleeing people with a minor warrant and no violent history. Are these chases necessary? If they lead to injuries due to a crash, perhaps not.

The frustrating thing about these accidents lies in the number of innocent people who get injured in them. A study published by USA Today found that half of all people injured or killed in police chase crashes were not involved in the case. The fleeing suspect may strike the individual or the police officer in these scenarios. However, in very few (if any) incidents, the officer was hurt.

This situation has led to some pretty confusing legal cases. After all, if the police officer initiates a chase and even worsens it by continuing the pursuit past reasonable levels, are they to blame? Law officers have legal statutes that protect them from prosecution in situations like these. These rules are designed to help officers who are not at fault. But when are they to blame?

Who is at Fault?

In a crash of this type, liability is usually weighed based on a few factors. First of all, who struck you during the chase? If it was the fleeing suspect, they might be liable. What if you were fleeing due to a minor warrant or legal problem, and the officer unexpectedly increased the speed of the chase, and an accident occurred? In some situations, the police officer may be considered liable themselves.

Typically, states demand that officers only initiate a high-speed chase in specific situations. They require that the crime be severe enough to warrant such a chase. The officer is expected to take reasonable steps to ensure the safety of others and to try to arrest the suspect more safely. For instance, officers are expected to use their lights during a high-speed chase to avoid accidents.

State laws also ask that officers don’t drive recklessly or too fast for the situation. For instance, if the officer catches up to the suspect and starts hitting them with their car, they could be behaving recklessly. Such strikes could cause the vehicle to spin out of control and trigger various accidents. Officers are also required to know when to stop a pursuit safely and give up the chase.

When Should Officers Give Up a Chase?

State laws typically leave a pursuit up to an officer’s discretion during a chase. However, courts may also find that a police officer pursued a chase beyond reasonable safety and may find them liable for an accident. This situation is rare but does occur if the officer was simply not careful. Even if the fleeing driver hit you, the officer might still be liable. Typically, officers must give up the chase if:

  • It ends up going into busy residential areas, in which many people may be present on roads
  • Increasing speeds could result in dangerous accidents, particularly on freeways
  • The fleeing driver continues to pull away and forces the officer to increase their speed
  • The officer finds that continued pursuance would likely lead to one or more accidents

Fantastic and unbelievable movie scenes featuring police flipping pedestrian cars and knocking the fleeing driver over are entirely incredible. In this situation, the police officers likely worsened the situation by driving and pursuing dangerous actions that would result in many lawsuits. The police don’t have the license to endanger innocent people and will be held accountable if they do.

Help is Available

Were you injured in a car crash caused by a police chase and need help? Please reach out to us today to learn more. We have over 75 years of helping injured workers and others get the compensation that they deserve. We’ll fight for your rights and make sure that you get money if a police officer behaved unsafely on the road, and you were hurt. You deserve a payment, and they deserve punishment.

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