In certain situations, emergency vehicles are legally allowed to ignore most traffic laws in order to do their job effectively. The societal cost-benefit analysis makes sense: ambulances need to be able to get someone to an ER, fire trucks have to be able to put out fires, and police officers need to be able to keep the peace.
The justification behind this being that the risk of ignoring some basic traffic laws (a common factor in almost every vehicle collision) and possibly causing a traffic accident may be worth taking because there is an immediate, concrete good that may result from that action, such as saving someone’s life or taking a dangerous criminal off of the streets.
Police cars are unique among emergency vehicles because only they can engage in high-speed chases. The cost-benefit analysis of these pursuits isn’t as clear. Most of the time high-speed chases are caused by the suspect refusing to pull over for a small traffic violation, which the suspect may want to avoid as it leaves them vulnerable to the investigating officer discovering more severe crimes.
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Evaluating the Risk of a Possible Crash
An officer has to determine if pursuing a fleeing car is worth the danger posed to other drivers and pedestrians, who have a fraction of a moment to get out of the pursuit’s way. These determinations are difficult to make. Oftentimes, a splinter of time isn’t enough for nearby travelers to get out of the way and bystanders are seriously injured.
These bystanders can seek compensation from the city that hired the officer who was part of the pursuit. The officer’s orders to pursue a suspect may not trump endangering the public. Police ability to violate traffic laws stems from language created in the Uniform Vehicle Code, which holds emergency vehicle drivers responsible for negligence.
A lawsuit will analyze all of the actions taken by the police officer, from the first decision to engage in the chase to the final result of the chase, to detect that negligence. Location, time, traffic patterns and other contextual factors will be reviewed.
What to Do if You've Been Injured
Historical and logistical aspects — for example, did the officer receive enough training to make a call and is there a policy in place by the department for handling pursuits? — must be considered. All of these deliberations are part of the process of determining liability, and are key to a victim’s financial recovery.
Personal injury attorneys are critical in these sorts of cases, which happen far more often than you would think—on average a person dies in a police pursuit every day in the United States. It takes a great deal of legal acumen and personal finesse to weigh these factors and tell a person’s story.
If you’ve been injured in an accident resulting from a high-speed police chase, you should consider seeking out an attorney that can explain your legal options to you. Our office offers free legal consultations to accident victims and uses that consultation as an opportunity to fully explain the best options moving forward, as well as whether or not our firm could potentially add value to the victim’s claim.