Liability in a High-Speed Police Chase

Wrongful Death Lawyer in Orlando

Sometimes drivers attempt to evade police by speeding away in an automobile. In the interest of seeing that actions have consequences and justice is served, the police will sometimes pursue, which can result in a high-speed police chase. Such a chase poses a risk of injury to many people, not only the police and the pursued but also other drivers, pedestrians, bystanders, etc. A high-speed chase sometimes ends in death for those involved, whether directly or indirectly.

If someone dies as a result of a high-speed chase, who is liable? The answer depends on the laws of the jurisdiction in which the chase and its aftermath took place, as well as the particular circumstances involved.

Potential Police Liability

The laws that govern whether or not police are liable for deaths resulting from a high-speed chase occupy a broad spectrum. The strictest laws are in Utah, which hold that officers have a responsibility to drive prudently in any situation and that a high-speed pursuit is an exception to the exemption that allows emergency vehicles to disregard traffic laws under certain circumstances.

On the other end of the spectrum is California. The laws require that officers assess the risk of danger to the community, as well as to police themselves, before initiating the chase. If, however, officers deem the risk to be minimal and initiate the chase, the law affords them limited governmental immunity.

The laws of most other states fall somewhere along the spectrum between these two extremes. Most hold that police owe a duty of care to bystanders who may be hurt as the result of a chase but not to the alleged wrongdoers who initiated it. Officers are expected to be mindful of this duty and exercise good judgment in the pursuit of an alleged wrongdoer to avoid unnecessary injuries or property damage to uninvolved parties. Nevertheless, the laws generally extend broad powers to the police to carry out their duties, limiting their liability in the process.

Pursued Parties’ Liability

If someone becomes hurt or killed as a result of a high-speed police chase, it is more likely that the pursued party or parties will be held liable than the police. Reckless driving can represent negligence. By operating the vehicle in an unsafe manner, the pursued parties breach the duty of care that they owe to others with whom they share the road, including other motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians.

If a loved one was killed as the result of a high-speed police chase, whether as a bystander or a pursued party, it can be difficult to know what your legal options are. Attorneys can help clarify the situation. Contact a wrongful death lawyer in Orlando for more information.

Call Needle & Ellenberg, P.A. for their insight into personal injury claims and wrongful death involving high-speed police chases.