Police officers are generally entitled to speed through traffic, pass red lights and violate other traffic rules when responding to an emergency. However, that doesn’t mean officers are allowed to drive recklessly.
If a person is injured when an officer fails to use sirens or warning lights or otherwise operated a vehicle with disregard for the safety and well-being of others, that individual may recover damages for his or her injuries.
Recently in Illinois, the mother of a 25-year-old man is suing a police officer, the police department and the city in which the officer is employed following a fatal accident that claimed the young man’s life.
According to The Chicago Tribune, the father of nine was struck and killed by an officer in 2011. The lawsuit alleges the officer failed to stop for a red light. Although there are situations in which officers are entitled to do that – i.e., when responding to emergency calls – they have to actively engage their cruiser lights and sirens. Otherwise, motorists sharing the road have no idea to watch out, slow down, stop or pull over.
Decedent’s mother further alleges the officer, who was en route to an emergency call, was speeding.
In so doing, plaintiff alleges, the officer acted carelessly and negligently in failing to keep a proper look for other vehicles. He also failed to change the direction of his vehicle or even slow down as he approached the active intersection. Decedent suffered massive injuries, and was pronounced dead at the hospital later the same day.
Two passengers in his vehicle were also critically injured.
Although the police agency involved declined to provide a statement to the press on pending litigation (which is standard procedure), it should be noted that the allegations in the lawsuit are materially different from earlier versions given by police. In the officer’s original report of the crash, two officers were traveling in the same SUV, responding to a call, with emergency signals activated. Police assert it was decedent’s vehicle that ran the ride light and smashed into police, before slamming into a nearby pole.
Plaintiff is seeking a minimum of $50,000 from each defendant.
Where there are disputes regarding material facts on which the outcome of a legal case may rely, these are called genuine issues of material fact. Because issues of fact have to be decided by a jury (as opposed to matters of law, which can be decided solely by a judge), these types of outstanding issues generally preclude summary judgment (in which a case is decided as an issue of law prior to trial).
Where car accident lawsuits against government agencies or officials are concerned, defendants often file motions for summary judgment on grounds of sovereign immunity. That is, there are only limited circumstances under which the government can be held responsible for the actions of its employees. These vary statutorily from state-to-state. If the judge determines sovereign immunity applies, then it would be likely summary judgment would be granted in favor of defense, notwithstanding the unresolved genuine issues of material fact. That’s because where sovereign immunity applies, there can be no lawsuit – even if plaintiff could show defendant was negligent or vicariously liable.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Chicago police sued over traffic fatality, Nov. 23, 2015, By Tony Briscoe, Chicago Tribune
More Blog Entries:
Baumann v. Zhukov – Semi-Truck Accident Lawsuit Weighed, Oct. 16, 2015, Charlotte Car Accident Lawyer Blog