Personal Injury Lawyer
Police chases outnumber police shootings by a large margin. According to government figures, which may be underestimated, they kill almost as many people. Over 10,000 people, including fleeing drivers, police officers, and innocent bystanders have been killed in police pursuits in the United States, which averages out to nearly one death per day. Over 5,000 more have been injured.
Why Do Drivers Flee?
The fear of potential arrest and prosecution prompts some drivers to make “very poor decisions to flee” in the heat of the moment. Some are already impaired by alcohol, which can influence people to make choices that they would never do while sober. Drivers also flee because they want to avoid arrest. Maybe they have an outstanding minor warrant or are driving on a suspended license. The most common reason for drivers to flee is because the car they are driving is stolen.
Why Do Police Pursue?
It is usually minor infractions like traffic violations that set off a police chase. Authorities usually justify the decision to pursue by saying that a minor infraction may be a sign of a more serious crime, but they may not be able to confirm this until after the chase comes to an end, one way or another. An FBI document asserts that an officer’s “need to win” can become overwhelming and blind him or her to the danger to the officer and to the public posed by pursuit.
What Is Being Done About the Problem?
The Justice Department has recognized the unique danger posed by police chases for at least 30 years. In 1990, it urged police departments to adopt specific policies detailing when pursuit is acceptable and when it is not, e.g., when it poses an unreasonable risk to bystanders. Unfortunately, many departments around the country have no such policy in place and leave the decision to pursue entirely to the officer’s judgment.
Who Is Liable for Injuries From Pursuit?
Most courts hold that fault for injuries resulting from a police chase rests with the fleeing driver. It may be possible to file a lawsuit against that person. It may also be possible to file a lawsuit against the officer, the department, or the city, but it can be difficult to recover because of the perception that authorities must be free to take whatever action they deem necessary to protect the public.
If you have lost a loved one due to a police chase, contact our office. One of our attorneys can give you a realistic picture of your legal options. If you have questions about a wrongful death case, contact a wrongful death lawyer, like from Barry P. Goldberg, for a consultation.