3 Things You Should Know About Auto Accidents Involving Police Cars

Posted on: 23 November 2015


Automobile accidents involving police vehicles are not uncommon. In just a small sampling taken from 6 jurisdictions in Maryland and Virginia, it was found that police officers were not only a part of, but at fault for 2,300 crashes between 2010 and 2014. The severity of these crashes ranged from fender-benders that caused only small amounts of vehicular damage to devastating wrecks that resulted in fatalities. 

Here are 3 things you should know if you're ever involved in an automobile accident with a police car.

1. If Their Lights Weren't On, They Should Have Been Following The Rules Of The Road (In Most Cases)

Laws vary by state and jurisdiction but in most cases, a police officer needs to turn their lights and sirens on if they're responding to an emergency, and if their lights and sirens aren't on, they shouldn't be speeding or blowing past red lights.

The only time it is permissible for a police officer to be defying the rules of the road without engaging their emergency signals is if they're responding to an emergency in which the sight and sound of their lights and sirens might interfere with the outcome of the emergency. For example, if the police officer was trying to sneak up on a criminal without that criminal becoming aware of their presence, then the police officer can exceed the speed limit without activating their vehicle's emergency lights and sirens. Even in these cases, though, the police department generally claims responsibility for any damages resulting in the event of an accident.

If you're ever injured in an automobile accident with a police officer who is driving negligently and doesn't have their lights or sirens on, then either the police officer or their department was responsible for your injuries and should compensate you for them.

2. A Third Party Needs To Be Contacted

A video recently surfaced on the Internet in which a New Jersey police officer was involved in an automobile accident with a civilian. In it, the drunk and disheveled officer approaches the civilian and offers her $1000 in exchange for her not reporting the incident. 

Fortunately, the civilian in this case was smart and didn't accept the bribe. She instead phoned the police and an investigation into the incident is ongoing. Most police cars have cameras in them. Had this woman accepted the bribe, it would have been documented on camera, and it might have been considered a settlement if the case went to court.

If this woman later found out that she sustained costly injuries as a result of the accident, having already settled, she wouldn't be able to pursue the remainder of the costs she incurred as a result of her injuries.

If you're ever in an accident involving a police car, don't assume that the police officer's duty to serve and protect automatically means that you should trust them. Phone the police department and your lawyer, and don't accept any settlements until your injuries are thoroughly evaluated by a doctor.

3. The Purpose Of A High-Speed Chase Is Public Safety, Not Apprehension

If you think that police perform high-speed chases for the sole purpose of apprehending criminals, you're wrong. Whether you're a police officer or not, driving a vehicle at high speeds is dangerous and should only be done for the purpose of a greater good. High-speed chases have little to do with apprehending criminals, and everything to do with protecting the safety of the public.

If you're involved in an accident with a police officer who is chasing a criminal at high speeds, that criminal being loose on the streets had better be more of a risk to the public than the high-speed chase itself, or else that chase should have been called off before somebody was injured.

Don't assume that a police officer who causes an accident isn't negligent because they were in hot pursuit of a criminal at the time of the collision. If the court system believes that the public was placed in more danger by the fast, erratic driving of the police officer than it was by the criminal not being apprehended, then the police officer is negligent and responsible for any costs related to injuries resulting from the accident.

Vehicular accidents happen, and sometimes one of the parties involved is a police officer. It's important for you to understand that, in most cases, police officers are subject to the same rules and regulations as the rest of the public, and they're responsible for any injuries that result from disobeying those rules. Contact a local car accident lawyer for more information.