Sometimes police officers have to employ high-risk strategies to catch criminals, which includes engaging in vehicle chases. Unfortunately, it's not unusual for accidents to occur that injure innocent bystanders. When this happens, who can be held responsible for compensating those victims for the damages and injuries they sustain?
The Suspect Being Chased
All drivers owe a duty of care to use the roadways in a safe and responsible manner. Thus, a criminal who speeds and drives recklessly to get away from police can be said to negligent in his or her duty to the public. If the person causes an accident while trying to escape, that individual can be held liable for any injuries and losses that occur.
The problem here, though, is determining where the money will come from. Even if the person has auto insurance, there's no guarantee the insurer will pay. Many auto insurance companies have clauses stating they won't cover claims for accidents caused on purpose, and getting a payout may depend on whether the driver intentionally ran into you as part of his or her escape plan or the collision was truly an accident.
Even more troubling, though, is when the liable person doesn't have auto insurance. In this case, you'll need to sue the person directly. However, as this person is a criminal, it may be difficult to actually collect the money even if you win your court case.
It's essential that you hire an auto accident attorney in this case who can help you fight the insurance company or uncover the defendant's assets so you can get paid the money you're due.
The Officers Involved in the Incident
Police officers also have a duty to protect the public. Even though their job is to capture criminals, they can't put innocent people in jeopardy to do so. Thus, if they cause an accident while engaged in a high-speed chase, they can be held liable for any associated fallout.
However, it's one thing to say that and quite another to get a court to agree. Unfortunately, law enforcement officers may enjoy something called qualified immunity that protects them from being sued for things that occur while they're doing their jobs. For instance, a criminal may not sue the department for a dog bite if a cop orders the animal to take down the suspect, as long as the action was reasonable and adhered to the department's rules and protocols.
Thus, it may be challenging to hold the police department liable for an auto accident caused by a high-speed chase. You'd have to show there were safer options available and the cops chose not to use them.
Again, hiring an auto accident attorney would be your best option for increasing your chances of winning a case against the police department. The lawyer can examine the evidence and find ways to get around the qualified immunity issue to win your case.
For more information about this issue or help with your auto accident case, contact a local auto accident attorney.