Law enforcement officers, particularly those who primarily work on patrol, spend an inordinate time behind the wheel. Accidents involving police cruisers are not all that uncommon, which is likely the result of not only the time they spend driving, but also the fact they are sometimes required to operate at high speeds or initiate risky maneuvers.
When officers are victims in car accidents, they may have several legal options for recourse. The first is workers’ compensation coverage. Beyond that, they may seek compensation from the at-fault driver and his/her insurance company. When someone else is injured as a result of an officer’s negligence, things can get a little trickier legally. The city and its officers may invoke the doctrine of sovereign immunity, which protects government agencies from liability in certain instances. But that protection isn’t absolute, and is possible to win a settlement or verdict. It will depend on the circumstances, including whether the officer followed agency protocol, whether the agency lacked protocol when it was needed and whether the officer’s actions might be considered grossly negligent.
A survey conducted in 2011 by The Police Chief revealed more than 700 officers had been killed between 2000 and 2009 as a result of automobile or motorcycle crashes or from being struck and killed while outside their patrol vehicles. Last year,the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a study titled, “Law Enforcement Officer Motor Vehicle Safety.” That report showed:
- While 93 percent of officers receive in-service training annually, less than a third receive motor vehicle training;
- Most motor vehicle training officers did receive involved reading and understanding written motor vehicle policy;
- One-third of officers who were trained received hands-on motor vehicle training, such as pursuit driving, use of driving course or emergency vehicle operation courses.
- The most common element of agency motor vehicle policies was the seat belt requirement;
- The least common elements of agency motor vehicle policies were speed restrictions while using lights and sirens and restriction of cell phone use.
All of this can certainly contribute to a higher crash risk.
In the New Jersey case, the officer in question filed a lawsuit in October against the estate of a man who was driving another car that crashed into his cruiser two years ago. Defendant in that case was an uninsured driver who later died in a separate traffic collision. Officer was one of two injured while sitting in a police cruiser that was struck by a 19-year-old who was fleeing another officer in a different cruiser. The officer suffered broken ribs and a punctured lung as a result of the impact.
The officer said he does not expect to receive money from the young man’s estate, but rather must secure a finding of liability against the estate in order to collect uninsured motorist coverage from his own insurance company.
In the second case, filed this month, a man alleges the same officer was negligent in running a red light at an intersection without use of his lights and sirens, causing a crash with his vehicle. The officer stated he was in a chase with a traffic violator. Plaintiff in that case asserts that is not reason enough to place the public in danger by running a red light, and in fact is violation of departmental policy.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Man claims Trenton police officer negligently crashed into his car, Dec. 3, 2015, By Anna Merriman, NJ.com
More Blog Entries:
Uspenskaya v. Meline – Collateral Source Rule in Personal Injury Litigation, Nov. 27, 2015, Greenville Car Accident Lawyer Blog