Car accidents are never pleasant experiences, but few things are worse than crashing into a police cruiser or having one crash into you. Filing a personal injury claim for a car accident that only involves civilians can be complicated but dealing with claims for events that involve police officers can be far more complex. Read on to learn more about who’s responsible for paying damages caused in these collisions.
Same Recommendations for a Regular Auto Accident Apply
When it comes to protecting your personal health and your legal and financial interests after an officer-involved accident, all of the usual recommendations for responding to a car crash apply. Do your best to collect the contact information of firsthand witnesses, document the scene by taking pictures, and make sure a police report is filed. Share all of your information as requested and collect information from everyone else involved.
As soon as you are able, visit the emergency room to have your injuries assessed and documented. The shock of being in a severe car crash can sometimes make it difficult for people to notice that they’re hurt and in pain. Even if you don’t appear to have sustained any harm, visiting a doctor is still advised.
Filing a Police Report
Filing a police report after an accident that involves a police cruiser should be fairly straightforward. If the officer in question is relatively unharmed and able to do so, they will radio in and request another officer at the scene.
The second officer will investigate and document the accident and then draft the police report. You are entitled to a copy of this report, so make sure you request one.
How Liability Is Determined
When drivers fail to adhere to basic traffic laws or when they exhibit reckless or careless driving behaviors, they can be held liable for any resulting accidents. This includes running through stop signs and stop lights, speeding, aggressively overtaking other vehicles, and failing to signal, among other things.
However, police cruisers and other emergency vehicles may be exempted from liability if they are responding to emergencies and have engaged their sirens and flashing lights.
In these instances, civilian motorists are expected to yield and move to the side. Federal and state government agencies are protected by what is known as sovereign immunity.
Sovereign immunity provides that these entities cannot be sued for personal injuries apart from any cases they allow or agree to recognize. Depending on the state in which the accident has occurred, however, tort claims law may make it possible to pursue compensation despite sovereign immunity.
Accidents Involving City or Town Police Vehicles
Police officers whom municipal police departments employ are not protected under sovereign immunity. In these cases, it is possible to file a complaint with the town or city government directly. Typically, these claims must be filed within six months of the related events.
Moreover, given the complexity of cases like these, it’s essential to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney for detailed information on the local laws that pertain to your complaint. You can learn more about filing a claim after an officer-involved car accident by contacting Dansker & Aspromonte Associates.
When a Police Officer is Guilty of Driving Recklessly
If a police officer is acting beyond the scope of his or her duties and causes an accident, you have the right to sue the officer directly. Police officers and other drivers operating cruisers and emergency response vehicles are not protected by sovereign immunity unless they are responding to an urgent situation. Sovereign immunity does not protect vehicle operators who are taking unnecessary risks or being negligent behind the wheel.
When You’re At Fault
If you’re responsible for hitting a police cruiser, keep in mind that the officer in the vehicle you have just hit cannot perform the accident investigation or write the related police report. If this is something that the officer attempts to do, ask to have a second officer to be brought onto the scene.
Also, contact your car insurance company right away and inform them of the event. Given that the government provides insurance coverage to government vehicles, the claims process will be slightly more complicated than if you had hit a civilian car. Thus, you might want to let your insurer handle all the details of your claim going forward.
Reckless and careless driving can leave people with lasting injuries. When accidents involve police cruisers, holding officers or police departments accountable can be a difficult task. By aligning yourself with a seasoned car accident attorney in your area, you can learn more about your legal options and pursue the compensation you deserve.