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Pursuits Could Result in IncidentsAccording to the Los Angeles Times, 1 in 10 car police pursuits (strictly LAPD chases) from 2006 to 2014 resulted in civilian injuries. Based on information provided by the California Highway Patrol, approximately 17% of car chases in Los Angeles County within a 12-month period (beginning in October 2015) resulted in a crash that could have caused injury or death. Throughout the same 12-month period, three fleeing suspects were killed and 45 people were injured (including suspects, passengers, and officers). As mentioned above, 1 in 10 police pursuits lead to civilian injuries; this translates to 334 civilians being injured within the eight to 334 civilians being injured within the eight year period. There is no doubt that police pursuits could result in car accidents, bicycle accidents, and even pedestrian accidents. Police pursuits could also result in significant property damage. Depending on the specific circumstances surrounding the incident, the innocent parties affected might have grounds to take legal action against the police department.
Liability for Incidents arising from Police PursuitsUnder California Vehicle Code § 17004.7, law enforcement agencies with pursuit policies have governmental immunity to shield them from any liability for the damages caused during pursuits – specifically to the parties being pursued. For example, in 2015, police responded to a report of a robbery at gunpoint; they attempted to stop a vehicle but it fled. The pursuit went on for a few minutes when the PIT maneuver was conducted – the vehicle lost control and slammed into a street light. The passenger in the vehicle died due to his injuries. A wrongful death claim was brought force against the police department, specifically Irma Ramirez v. City of Gardena. However, the court held that the police department had no liability for the incident. So, the police aren’t liable for any harm that fleeing suspects suffer, but what about liability in different situations?
- All drivers have a duty of care towards others on or near the road. During a police chase, fleeing drivers are negligently and recklessly putting other parties on and near the road at risk of harm. Whether the fleeing driver is speeding, squeezing through cars, ignoring traffic signals, or doing anything else that fleeing drivers do during car chases, innocent bystanders are put at risk. Whenever innocent bystanders are harmed by a fleeing suspect/vehicle during a chase, the fleeing suspect will likely be liable for the harm suffered.
- All police officers also owe a duty of care to bystanders. Because of this, it is common for police pursuits to come to an abrupt end once it is determined that continuing the chase would be too dangerous. Police officers must ensure that they do not unreasonably cause harm to others. They must assess each individual situation to determine a way to continue without putting others at an unnecessary risk of injury. If the police fails to exercise caution during a pursuit (exercises recklessness, negligence, and general disregard for the safety of others), the police could be liable for any harm that they cause to innocent bystanders.
You Could SueAs explained above, the fleeing suspect as well as the police could both contribute to the harm that innocent bystanders suffer. Depending on the circumstance, either a fleeing suspect or a police officer (or the entire police department) could be liable for the harm that bystanders suffer during a police pursuit. This means that innocent bystanders could have the right to sue for the harm that they suffered. Yes; you could have the right to sue, and you could even have the right to recover monetary compensation depending on the details of your claim. Although there is no guarantee, you could be eligible to recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, property damage, loss of consortium, funeral and burial costs, and punitive damages, for example. For more information about your right to sue and your right to receive compensation, do not hesitate to seek legal assistance with our experts immediately.
Learn more about your options for compensation by calling (213) 389-3765.