All across the country victims of car crashes are suing police departments.
While pursuing fleeing criminals, police officers are sometimes endangering other drivers.
In Tucson, Ariz., this month, a man injured in a multi-car crash filed suit against the city saying officers chasing a fleeing felon “exercised negligence and gross negligence in their handling of the traffic stop and subsequent chase.”
In 2015, Tucson police officers pulled over a truck linked to a felony investigation. The driver reversed, ramming another vehicle then sped away. Police officers fired their guns at the fleeing truck before getting in their patrol car and chasing him down. By the time police caught up with the felon, he had hit at least nine other vehicles.
In June, a fourth lawsuit was filed in Southington, Conn., against police for a December crash that killed two children and severely injured a passenger in a car hit by a speeding van. In this case, police are being sued for not pursuing the speeding driver. The suit seeks damages from the city, the police department, the police chief, and one officer. According to police reports, a man complained to an officer about the speeding driver, but the officer decided it was not worth his time to chase after the van or contact Bristol police. Minutes later, the fatal crash occurred.
Earlier this summer, the city of Park Ridge, Ill., and a former police officer were named in a lawsuit connected to a high-speed crash last year that left four people injured. The driver eventually pleaded guilty to aggravated reckless driving. His two passengers, who were injured in the crash filed suit. They claimed that when the officer activated his emergency lights, he distracted their driver, causing the crash.
Late last year, the city of Flint, Mich., paid $7.7 million to settle a lawsuit stemming from a police chase that left a bystander dead. The 64-year-old woman was killed after the vehicle in which she was riding was struck by a state police cruiser that was pursuing a suspect for a seatbelt violation.
More than 5,000 bystanders and passengers have been killed in police car chases since 1979, and tens of thousands more were injured as officers repeatedly pursued drivers at high speeds and in hazardous conditions, often for minor infractions, according to a 2015 USA TODAY report. The bystanders and the passengers in chased cars account for nearly half of all people killed in police pursuits from 1979 through 2013. Most bystanders were killed in their own cars by a fleeing driver.
“Whether or not an officer exercises ‘due regard' and whether an officer's driving amounts to ‘reckless disregard' are questions inevitably decided by a jury,” according to an article in Police Chief Magazine.
Every person harmed by a wrongful act, defective device or negligence deserves compensation. If you suspect a loved one was harmed or died as a result of such an act, call the offices of trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian at 1-800-529-6162 or contact them online. The firm handles cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.