When you are involved in an accident that is not your fault, the at-fault party can be held responsible for compensating you for your injuries. But what do you do if the at-fault driver is a police officer? It is bad enough being involved in an accident with an ordinary, albeit negligent, person. When that person is a law enforcement officer the case quickly becomes complicated and can be extremely stressful. Few expect to be hit by a negligent police officer, but it does happen. When it does, how do you pursue compensation? Motor vehicle accidents that involve police officers present special challenges for the injured party who is seeking compensation. The first thing you should do is call an experienced personal injury attorney to learn your options.
Can I Sue a Police Officer or Police Department for Damages?
Like all drivers on the road, police officers are required to exercise a standard of care. Even when an officer is on-duty, this standard of care applies. However, there are a few exceptions. If a police officer is in pursuit of an individual, the law allows the officer to exceed posted speed limits and “break” other traffic laws. Despite the law giving police leeway to do their job, they are not permitted to disregard the safety of other motorists on the road. This means that if they are speeding or running red lights they must use caution, be aware of others in the way and use sirens and lights to alert other drivers on the road.
It is important to know that there are special laws which govern the liability of public employees, including police officers. Many state agencies, like the Department of Highways, are immune from civil lawsuits except under special and specific circumstances. When this type of agency can be sued, the claim is typically limited to a modest insurance coverage limit. When you are involved in a collision caused by a police officer, you must determine if the police department is insured under the State policy. If the officer can be sued, there will likely be a limit of insurance coverage. Though this may seem confusing, your personal injury attorney will be able to help you through this process.
What Damages Might I Receive?
Damages you can collect in a lawsuit for police misconduct will vary depending on the severity of the misconduct as well as the nature of the injuries you sustain. Typically, you can pursue compensation for:
- Compensatory Damages – This includes damaged property, medical bills, loss of earnings and any potential future loss of earnings.
- Aggravated Damages – If the police act in a high handed or unpleasant way that is uncalled for, you can seek this type of damage.
- Exemplary Damages – When police conduct amounts to an oppressive, arbitrary or unconstitutional action then you can seek this type of damage. This is specifically awarded to act as a deterrent to future wrongdoing by other officers.
If you believe that the police officer in your accident acted in a negligent way that went against their duty of care, you should speak with a personal injury attorney on the best way to approach your case. Your attorney will provide you with information on this type of case as well as help you determine the best course of action to take. An experienced attorney will know how to approach such a complicated and confusing type of case, something you will not be able to do on your own. If you have been the victim of police misconduct, be sure to speak with an attorney today.