Are Police Liable for Injuries Suffered in a Chase-Related Crash?

Imagine for a moment that you are riding your motorcycle down the 605 when suddenly you hear police sirens in the distance approaching quickly from behind. Thinking there is an emergency ahead of you, you begin to pull your vehicle over to the side of the road to give them room to pass. Suddenly though, you are struck from behind by the vehicle officers were chasing.

As you can imagine, if an accident like this didn’t kill you, it would certainly leave you severely injured and in need of extensive medical treatments. You might also be left wondering who should be held liable for your injuries: the suspect driving the car that hit you or the officers giving chase?

This is certainly a unique question to a situation you may never find yourself facing. Nonetheless, it’s a question we’d like to answer in this week’s blog post because it will be an answer our Los Angeles readers may be grateful to have in the event they are involved in a crash such as this down the road.

When it comes to operating a motor vehicle in the state of California, drivers have a responsibility to drive their vehicle safely and in a non-reckless manner. Far too often, people breach this duty by failing to follow the rules of the road, choosing instead to drive recklessly or in a negligent manner. In some cases, as in the scenario we presented above, a driver involved in a police chase would not only be considered negligent but at fault for the accident as well.

But what about the officers who gave chase? Could they be held liable in a personal injury lawsuit?

Unfortunately, this question isn’t as easy to answer because of Section 17004.7 of the California Vehicle Code, which gives immunity to law enforcement during police pursuits provided officers were abiding by the applicable laws and the vehicle pursuit policy of their department at the time of the crash. It’s possible though, if the pursuing officer was not abiding by the applicable laws or policy and their negligent actions resulted in the crash, then they too could be held liable for damages.