What Should I Do if I am in a Car Accident with a Police Car?

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High-speed pursuits by law enforcement are often necessary to apprehend an individual who is breaking the law. Unfortunately, there are times when innocent motorists get caught in the crosshairs of these pursuits. If a motorist is hit by a police car, he or she can suffer serious personal injury, particularly if the police car was traveling at a high speed at the time of the accident. Sadly, this is more common than one might think. In the United States, approximately two-thirds of the individuals who are injured or killed in police chases are innocent motorists or pedestrians who were not involved in the chase. In addition, more people are killed in high-speed police pursuits in the United States than by police firearms. When it comes to determining liability in a car accident involving a police car, the process can be a bit more complicated than an accident involving two passenger vehicles. An experienced car accident lawyer will advocate for the injured victim and recommend the best legal course of action.


Motorists have a responsibility to pay attention to other vehicles in the vicinity. If a police car, ambulance, or other emergency vehicle is approaching with its lights flashing and its siren on, motorists are expected to slow down, move into another lane, or take other action to allow the emergency vehicle to pass. However, motorists are still expected to obey the rules of the road and avoid putting other motorists or pedestrians in danger. Braking sharply, running through a red light, and driving onto the curb should be avoided if possible.


What Should I Do Immediately Following an Accident with a Police Car?


As with other car accidents, if a motorist is hit by a police car, there are steps they should take to ensure that their legal rights are protected. The first thing the motorist should do is check for injuries. The police officer involved in the accident will likely radio police dispatch to send another officer, as well as an ambulance, if necessary, to the accident scene. If the officer does not do this, the motorist should call 911 and report the accident. Someone should take photographs of the accident scene, including the damage to the vehicles, skid marks on the road, the injuries, weather conditions, traffic controls, and the traffic conditions at the time of the accident. Even if the motorist’s injuries seem relatively minor, they should go to the nearest emergency room for a complete evaluation. Oftentimes, injuries may not appear obvious right away. Adrenaline from the shock of the accident can mask the pain or other symptoms of an injury. If the injured victim does not seek medical attention, it can hurt their chances of reaching a successful settlement. Medical records provide important evidence, and if the motorist fails to seek medical attention, the police officer may try to claim that the motorist was not seriously injured in the accident.


It is also important that the motorist does not admit fault or apologize to the police officer, even if the police officer tries to intimidate the motorist or suggest that the accident was the motorist’s fault. The driver should ask the officer for his or her name and badge number and request copies of all accident and incident reports. Accidents involving police cars are handled somewhat differently than regular car accidents, so it is highly recommended that the motorist contacts a skilled car accident lawyer who understands the liability issues involved. For example, police officers are usually covered by the city’s or state’s insurance policy, as opposed to an auto insurance policy. As a result, there may be a limit of insurance coverage.


Who is Liable for My Injuries?


When a motorist is speeding or runs through a red light, this is typically considered negligent driving behavior. However, police cars and other emergency vehicles are exempt from traffic laws if they are responding to an emergency. In fact, motorists are expected to pay attention to their surroundings and move to the side of the road or wait at a green light to allow the police car to pass. If a police car hits another passenger vehicle while acting within the scope of the officer’s duties, the officer may not be held liable for the resulting injuries or property damage. The injured party may file a personal injury lawsuit against the municipality for whom the police officer works. However, this can be a complicated process because government entities are protected by the doctrine of sovereign immunity. This means that police officers are often immune from liability and cannot be sued for personal injuries.


For example, if a motorist is hit by a Maryland State Police officer, the victim generally may not sue the state of Maryland. The motorist may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against the police officer if the officer was off duty or acting outside the scope of his or her duties at the time of the accident. However, if the accident occurred during a police chase or while the officer was carrying out other police-related duties, the officer will likely be protected from liability. If the accident was caused by a municipal police officer, the victim may file a complaint with the city or town government. The claim must be filed within six months of the accident.


Again, the process of resolving this type of case is much more complicated than typical car accident claims, so it is important to seek legal representation from a skilled and experienced car accident lawyer who has experience negotiating these types of settlements. The lawyer will work closely with the injured victim to determine the amount of damages. Requesting an amount that is unreasonably high will make the claim less credible. Requesting an amount that is too low means that the victims will not be able to ask for more, even if he or she discovers that the amount requested will not cover the costs associated with the accident. In addition to helping the victim request a reasonable settlement amount, a car accident lawyer will advise the client as to whether he or she should file a claim against the individual officer or the municipality.


How Do I Prove the Police Officer Was at Fault?


One way to confirm that the police car hit the motorist’s vehicles is to obtain footage from the traffic camera if the accident occurred at or near an intersection where traffic lights are equipped with cameras. In addition, if bystanders were present at the time of the accident, they may be able to provide witness statements about what they saw and who caused the accident. It is important to collect witness statements as soon as possible following the accident while all of the details are still fresh in the minds of the witnesses.


What Damages May I Receive if I Was Hit by a Police Car?


The damages for which the victim will be entitled will depend on a number of factors, including how fast the police car was traveling at the time of the accident, the extent of the damage to the vehicle, and the severity of the injuries. Police vehicles are large, heavy, and fast, so they can cause significant damage to another vehicle. The injured motorist will likely be entitled to compensation for the damage to the vehicle, medical expenses, lost wages if the injury prevents the motorist from returning to work, and any other expenses that are directly related to the accident. If police misconduct was involved, the injured party may be eligible for the following damages:


  • Compensatory damages: This includes property damage, medical bills, lost wages, and future lost earnings.
  • Aggravated damages: The motorist may seek these damages if the police officer behaved in a way that was high handed, unpleasant, or uncalled for.
  • Exemplary damages: If the police officer’s conduct is oppressive or unconstitutional, the injured party may seek these damages. Exemplary damages are meant to prevent future wrongdoing by other police officers.


In some cases, the injured motorist may be held responsible for the damages resulting from the accident. For example, if the motorist is found to be at fault for causing the accident, he or she will likely be responsible for the damages. If the police department is insured, the insurer may file a claim against the motorist’s insurance company for reimbursement for the costs that the police department’s insurer paid for items such as repairs to the police cruiser.


Baltimore Car Accident Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Advocate for Victims of Car Accidents Involving Police Cars


If you or a loved one was injured in a car accident and the vehicle that hit you was a police car, you are strongly urged to contact the Baltimore car accident lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton as soon as possible. We have a proven track record of reaching successful settlements in these types of cases. Our experienced legal team will walk you through every step of the claims process, help you collect crucial evidence that will prove fault, and ensure that you receive the maximum financial compensation you deserve for your injuries. To schedule a free, confidential consultation, call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online.


Our offices are conveniently located in BaltimoreColumbiaGlen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, where we represent victims throughout Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel CountyCarroll CountyHarford CountyHoward CountyMontgomery CountyPrince George’s CountyQueen Anne’s CountyMaryland’s Western CountiesSouthern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of CatonsvilleEssexHalethorpeMiddle RiverRosedale, Gwynn OakBrooklandvilleDundalkPikesvilleParkvilleNottinghamWindsor MillLuthervilleTimoniumSparrows PointRidgewood, and Elkridge.