Police Chase Accident Attorney
Personal Injury Lawyers - Representing People Nationwide
High-speed police pursuits pose an inherent risk of catastrophic injury and wrongful death. The number of police pursuits along with the number pursuit-related deaths and injuries are on the rise. As such, police chase accidents constitute an important public safety and law enforcement issue.
It is estimated that 40 percent of police pursuits end in a crash, 20 percent end in injuries, and 1 percent end in at least one death, resulting in approximately 350 to 400 deaths per year. About 63 percent who die are those being pursued, 36 percent are occupants of other vehicles or innocent bystanders, and less than 1 percent are police officers.
These numbers are considered conservative because police officers and their agencies often contend that a crash occurred after the pursuit was “officially” over and therefore not pursuit-related. The definition of “pursuit-related” is subject to interpretation, making accurate assessments difficult to come by. Arguably on the high end in the plausible range of estimates, one organization places the number of pursuit-related deaths and injuries per year at 2,500 and 55,000 respectively.
Regardless of the actual numbers, when initiating a pursuit, police officers must weigh the benefits of the potential apprehension of a lawbreaker against the risks of endangering the public’s and their own safety. Yet while most opinion polls suggest that the public predominantly desires more restraint with regard to police chases, efforts to do so appear to have been ineffective.
One factor that prevents better outcomes is that police pursuits become dangerous rather quickly. 70 percent of all pursuit collisions occur within six minutes of the pursuit. 50 percent occur in the first two minutes.
Another factor preventing better outcomes in police chases is lack of training. Police officer training involves how to pursue suspects, but only in recent years has it included when to pursue them. And although most officer training programs now include classroom instruction on policy, liability and pursuit tactics, evidence suggests that it is rarely followed in actual practice.
The issue has come to a head and made its way more than once to the Supreme Court. The top court recently reviewed a case in which six years ago, a police officer attempted to pull over a 19 year old who had been clocked going 73 mph on a highway with a speed limit of 55 mph. He was driving with a suspended license but was not charged with a felony in the case.
The young man sped off, leading to a pursuit at over 100 mph. At times the young man crossed the double yellow line on the road to pass cars and ignored red traffic lights. At one point, the young man pulled into a shopping center parking lot and hits one of the patrol cars the officers used to attempt to block him as he fled once more.
An officer in pursuit then radioed his supervisor requesting permission to stop the young man. The officer was granted permission, and after the officer rammed the rear bumper of the young man’s vehicle, the vehicle flew down an embankment and crashed, rendering the young man a quadriplegic.
The court has yet to decide if reasonable force was used by the police officer in order to stop the dangerously speeding vehicle. And while the decision may change the rules for police chasing fleeing suspects, you should be aware that there are national and regional standards police officers are held to.
If you or a loved one has been killed or injured in a motor vehicle accident directly or indirectly in connection with a police pursuit (regardless of whether you were the driver of another vehicle, a passenger in another vehicle, a pedestrian or in the car being chased), you may wish to consult with an experienced auto accident attorney who can assess if your case merits a claim to damages. Please call or email one of our personal injury lawyers – we may be able to help.