Many people will be involved in or witness a car accident at some point, and a few of those people will be in an accident that involves a police car. A common mistake that people often make is assuming that the police have complete immunity and that they are not liable for injuries. However, the municipality or city that they are a part of may be liable for injuries and damages. If you suffered a police car injury in a police car accident, it is important to know what to do, understand how to determine fault and understand why you need an advocate.
Since taking the right steps is critical for winning a legal case, it helps to know what to do ahead of time. However, if the accident occurred days or weeks ago, skip ahead to the fourth step.
1. Call for Emergency Help
It is rare for a police car to leave a scene if there is an accident. However, it can happen, and it is important to report it if that happens. Whether you are driving a car or are a pedestrian, call 911 if you are able. Do not assume that the officer will call. He or she may be injured or unable to call for help. Even if you feel fine, it is possible to have injuries. Having immediate documentation of any symptoms you experience or injuries you suffer is helpful for seeking compensation if you qualify for it.
2. Take Photos if Possible
If you have a camera phone and are able to do so safely, take pictures after you call for emergency help. It helps to have photos to show the time of day, vehicle positions, damages and more. Try to take the photos from your vehicle. Unless it is unsafe to do so, stay in the vehicle. If your vehicle is blocking traffic and is still drivable, move it to the side of the road.
3. Do Not Admit Fault
Apologizing or making nervous statements that can indicate fault can be detrimental. If the police officer who hit your vehicle approaches you, do not answer any questions that seem angled to get you to admit fault. Make note of any statements that the officer makes that seem intimidating. Politely tell the officer that you simply want to wait quietly for emergency responders to arrive and wish to seek immediate medical treatment. Make a note of everything that happens while you wait for help if you are able. Try to describe the scene, details and anything else that comes to mind. You can use a voice memo program on your smartphone to do this.
4. Call an Attorney
After you seek medical help and notify your insurance agent, call a car accident injury attorney immediately. It is important to have legal representation in a complex accident case such as this. An attorney will handle all correspondence on your behalf and will handle the investigation of the accident to determine if the officer was negligent. If the officer is at fault, the attorney can handle the legal paperwork and other matters on your behalf.
Determining Fault or Negligence
There are a few different rules for determining fault when a police car is involved. For example, if a car ran a red light and hit you in an intersection, the driver would be at fault. However, if the vehicle that hit you was a police car with lights and sirens on, the officer may not be at fault. When law enforcement officers respond to an emergency call or situation, these are some common traffic violations that they can make as long as their lights and sirens are on for a legitimate emergency:
- Driving the wrong way
- Running red lights
- Running stop signs
- Making U-turns
- Ignoring right-of-way
There are a few specific provisions that the law makes for what constitutes an emergency. These are some examples:
- Pursuing a suspect
- Responding to an emergency call
- Executing a rescue operation
- Responding to a fire
- Operating a fire vehicle
Although fire department workers often drive fire engines or other fire vehicles, police officers may drive them in some situations. Fire vehicles are also equipped with lights and sirens for responding to emergency situations.
One of the easiest ways to avoid an accident with a police car that has its lights and sirens on is to keep the radio or music turned down low and watch the road carefully. However, if a police car’s lights and sirens are not on, the officer may be liable for injuries caused by traffic violations. Even when the lights and sirens are on, the court may find that the officer was negligent. For example, if the officer had the lights and sirens on to get to a restaurant faster for a lunch break instead of to respond to a call, the officer is not acting responsibly. A good attorney knows how to investigate accidents to look for negligence and to determine the extent of an officer’s fault.
Types of Damages in Police Car Injury Lawsuits
When a police officer is at fault or is negligent, the court looks at the extent of the victim’s injuries. If you had other people in the vehicle with you who also sustained injuries, they may be able to collect compensation. As it is with other types of injury lawsuits, negligence of a police officer allows for compensation of multiple types of damages. These are some examples:
- Physical injuries
- Vehicle damage
- Lost wages from injuries
- Lost earning ability
- Loss of consortium
- Pain and suffering
The problems that accidents cause for victims can be complex and vary in each unique situation. If the accident was traumatic or others lost their lives, you may need counseling. Also, you may need money to pay for final expenses if there were fatalities and you survived. You may need money to train for a new line of work or to replace your income if you are unable to work again. An attorney analyzes your situation to determine how the accident affects every area of your life and your finances. This comprehensive information is important for determining a fair settlement.
What To Expect During the Process
A lawsuit seeking damages from a negligent police officer involves a municipality or city, and such lawsuits take time. It is important to be patient and to stay in contact with the attorney. Also, your attorney may have you schedule additional medical appointments that are covered and are required to determine the extent of your injuries. A doctor will be able to determine your prognosis. For example, if you developed a permanent and serious disability from the police car injury, that may mean that you need more compensation than you would if you had a broken leg or a partial disability that would not affect your ability to work in the future.
Wrongful Death Claims for Police Car Accident Lawsuits
If the officer was negligent or at fault, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a deceased family member. The entity that employs the police officer may be liable for funeral expenses, burial costs and other related final expenses. If your spouse died and was the main income earner, the municipality or city may also be liable for lost income. There may be other compensation for family members as well.
Why You Need a Car Accident Attorney
With a police car injury accident case, the help of an attorney is especially important to ensure that you receive adequate compensation. Without an attorney to represent you, there may be a minimal settlement or no offer of compensation from the entity that pays the police officer. Some people also feel scared to seek damages for a police car injury. An attorney acts as a buffer between you and all other parties, and you can rest easier knowing that anyone who tries to intimidate you will face serious legal consequences when you have a good car accident attorney representing and protecting you.
After dealing with an accident, you have plenty of other issues to face. You may have insurance calls, medical appointments, work and family commitments. The added stress and trauma following such an event only complicates everyday life, and we understand this. Our team has handled many accident cases, and we know how to help relieve some of your burdens. It helps to have someone seeking the compensation you need and deserve on your behalf. If you or a loved one were injured in a police car accident, please call us. We offer free and confidential consultations to determine if you have a case.