Multiple studies show that Los Angeles has a serious problem when it comes to high-speed police pursuits resulting in automobile accidents. Many of those injured are innocent bystanders who are left wondering what their rights are regarding compensation for their injuries and related losses. If you find yourself in this position, here is what you need to know regarding your rights as a car accident victim and how to pursue them.
Injuries sustained in a high-speed auto accident
You are driving through Los Angeles on your way to work. After waiting at a red light, the signal turns green and you head into the intersection. Out of nowhere, another driver speeds through the intersection from your left, ignoring his red light, and T-boning your car with such force it spins you around several times. You suffer broken bones and internal injuries, and your car is totaled.
Later, in the hospital, you find out the driver who struck you was running away from the police, who were in active pursuit when the suspect ran the light. They were chasing him on suspicion of shoplifting.
Leaving aside the valid legal debate over whether minor crimes should result in police chases, what should be your next steps as the innocent victim?
When a driver evading pursuit caused your injuries
Victims of high-speed police pursuits have the right to seek compensation under California law from those deemed responsible for causing the accident. Although the Los Angeles police decided to chase the suspect, it is the person being pursued who chose to evade arrest without regard for whether their actions put other drivers in danger.
Driving at high speeds through busy streets is not only reckless, but negligent. That driver failed to operate their automobile as required by California law – taking reasonable care to avoid injuring others in ways any rational person could predict. Any driver racing through city streets as a rate well exceeding posted speed limits and ignoring a traffic signal at an intersection may be considered negligent per se. This is a specific legal definition under civil law meaning the obvious disregard for traffic law is sufficient demonstration of negligence. As long as you can prove your injuries were caused by the accident, your case against the runaway driver will be strong.
Suing the police after a high-speed chase leads to an auto accident
You are probably wondering whether you can also take action against the police for conducting a high-speed pursuit through Los Angeles, especially if the reasons for the chase seem insufficient when compared to putting innocent drivers at risk. For better or worse, California officers are shielded by limited governmental immunity, which limits their liability for collateral damage resulting from pursuit of their law enforcement duties.
California police officers are supposed to take several factors into consideration before initiating a pursuit according to California Law Enforcement Vehicle Pursuit Guidelines. These include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Public safety
- Nature of offense and circumstances
- Pedestrian/vehicle traffic patterns and volume
- Other passengers in pursued vehicle
- Location of pursuit
- Suspect’s speed during flight
- Weather and visibility
- Roadway conditions
- Ability of officer driving and of the police vehicle being driven
However, due to a major blow to victim’s rights issues by the California Supreme Court in 2018, simply having this policy in place is considered enough to grant police virtual immunity in civil cases over high-speed chases. With this in mind, your best avenue for seeking compensation is going after the suspect, or their estate if they are deceased.
Speak to a Los Angeles car accident attorney
When you are injured due to the recklessness and negligence of a high-speed police pursuit, you do have legal recourse, but you will need a highly experienced automobile accident attorney on your side. Contact Los Angeles car accident attorney Scott J. Corwin at (310) 683-2300 for assistance pursuing financial compensation for your medical bills and property losses.