What Happens If a Police Officer Causes a Car Accident
Car accidents frequently occur on the roads of Montgomery. Unfortunately, these accidents sometimes involve a law enforcement vehicle or a vehicle driven by an on-duty police officer. Making a legal claim for compensation for a car accident is tough enough. When a police officer causes a car accident, it can make your legal claim considerably more complex.
When you are injured in an accident involving a police car, it’s important to seek prompt treatment for injuries and then understand your legal rights and options for seeking compensation for your injuries and damages.
Who Is Liable for an Accident Involving a Police Car?
Typically, when a driver violates traffic laws or drives in a careless or reckless manner, such as by speeding, running red lights, stop signs, or another common cause of a car accident, that driver can be found negligent and held responsible for damages and injuries arising from an accident.
However, emergency vehicles such as police cars are exempted from traffic laws when they are responding to emergency calls and using the vehicle’s lights and sirens. Thus, a police officer may not be held negligent for an accident if he or she was operating an authorized emergency vehicle in response to an emergency situation and reasonably using lights and sirens.
When you’ve been hit by a police car, you may wonder who you can hold responsible for your injuries and other damages. The answer is it depends on the specific facts of the accident. Unlike a typical car accident in which you would hold the at-fault driver liable for your damages, liability for a motor vehicle accident caused by a police car is more complicated.
For example, when pursuing legal action against a state and local law enforcement agency in Alabama, you will have to deal with the issue of sovereign immunity. This means that police are generally immune from liability and cannot be sued for personal injuries. Some states have enacted tort claims law that allows citizens who have been injured by public agencies or personnel to file a claim for compensation.
For example, if you are injured in an accident caused by an Alabama Highway Patrolman, you generally cannot sue the state of Alabama. You may have a right to sue the highway patrolman if the officer was acting outside the scope of his job duties and caused the accident as a result. However, if the patrolman was acting within the scope of his duties, he has legal protection from liability.
A different set of rules apply if the traffic accident was caused by a police officer from a municipal police department. You can file a complaint with the city or town government.
The amount of time you have to give notice to the local government is six months. This starts a process to try to resolve your claim through a negotiated settlement. It is important to seek the help of a car accident attorney who has experience negotiating settlements with municipal agencies. They are more complicated to resolve than typical car accident claims.
What to Do after a Police-Involved Accident
If you have been in a car accident with a police officer, there are steps you should take to protect yourself and your rights in the event you later need to make a claim for compensation for injuries you suffered.
Assuming that the police officer in the accident is not badly hurt or unconscious, he or she will likely immediately radio police dispatch to send another officer to investigate the accident and send emergency medical services, if needed. Other officers who respond to the scene will generate an accident and/or incident report. You should request a copy of all publicly available accident or incident reports.
If possible, you should try to take photographs of the accident scene, including the positions of the vehicles involved in the accident, damage to the vehicles, any skid marks on the road, the road lines and traffic controls at the scene, and the lighting, weather, road, and traffic conditions at the time of the accident. If you have visible injuries, you may want to photograph those as well.
Even if you decline treatment at the scene of the accident because you don’t feel like you were hurt, you should still follow up with your medical provider. In the shock of an accident, you may not feel pain or other symptoms from injuries you suffered. However, an examination may reveal those injuries and allow your medical provider to diagnose the extent of your injuries and develop a plan of treatment.
A doctor’s report will provide evidence of your injuries, especially if the other party tries to claim that you were not as seriously hurt in the accident as you claim or that your injuries occurred after your accident
You should then make an appointment and speak to an experienced police car accident attorney about your options. Car accidents involving police vehicles are more complicated than other kinds of motor vehicle accidents. It can be very difficult to hold police departments accountable when officers cause car accidents, so you need aggressive representation on your side to give you the best chance at securing the compensation you deserve. The limited amount of time you have to notify a municipal government of a pending claim underscores the importance of talking to a lawyer as soon as possible.
Do I Need to Pay for the Damages in an Accident Involving the Police?
If you’ve been injured in an accident caused by the police, holding the police accountable to compensate you for your injuries and losses may be a complex, time-consuming task. If you have collision or comprehensive coverage under your insurance, that can pay to repair the damage to your vehicle.
If you are found to be at fault for the accident, you may be held responsible to pay for damages arising from the accident. The police department may be content to simply issue you a traffic citation for causing the accident. However, if the police department is insured, the insurer may decide to file a claim against your car insurance company for reimbursement for benefits the police department’s insurer paid out, such as repair costs for the police cruiser.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for an Accident Involving a Police Car?
Even if you believe that you have a straightforward case, when you’re involved in an accident caused by a police officer, you should still seriously consider hiring an attorney to represent you. Filing a legal claim against a police officer or police department is a complicated task. It can be easy for someone who doesn’t have experience handling claims against public entities to miss key notification deadlines or requirements and have the claim dismissed.
An experienced attorney will ensure that your claim is pursued properly. Your attorney will fight back against efforts to paint you as responsible for the accident and will work to hold the negligent officer accountable for the accident and for your injuries.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident involving a police car in Montgomery, you need aggressive, experienced legal representation on your side. Contact the Montgomery, AL car accident attorneys of Stokes Stemle, LLC today to schedule a free consultation with one of our lawyers to discuss the details of your accident and to learn more about your legal options for seeking compensation for your injuries. Call us today at (334) 316-4123.