Our Michigan police chase accident lawyers represent victims of motor vehicle crashed caused by high-speed chases. Innocent victims often suffer serious injury or death due to police chases. You may have the right to a significant settlement after a crash involving a police car or other vehicle.
The Buckfire Law Firm specializes in police misconduct cases. Law enforcement officers have a duty to prevent harm to the public and cannot recklessly endanger innocent people during a chase. People injured due to a police chase have legal rights and may be able to sue the police officer and police department in a civil suit for money damages.
Police officers must recognize the possible public danger involved when chasing speeding vehicles and know when to pursue a fleeing vehicle and when to terminate a chase. The use of police car dash cam videos is now a valuable tool in winning police chase lawsuits.
- The Dangers of Michigan Police Car Chase Accidents
- Using Police Dash Cam Video and Black Box Recorders
- Who is Liable for a Police Chase Car Accident?
- Can I Sue for a Michigan Police Chase Accident?
- Types of Claims after a Police Chase Car Accident
Top Reason for Police Car Chases
Police officers chase fleeing vehicles for several reasons. However, because these car chases are dangerous, it is essential that a police chase be for a necessary and immediate law enforcement purpose. There are strict written policies and procedures for police to chase a vehicle.
The most common reason for police car chase is chasing a fleeing vehicle with a suspected felon inside. Law enforcement is permitted to chase a known or suspected perpetrator that has just committed a felony, is suspected of a felony, or is a wanted suspect or criminal.
Many police officers are overzealous in apprehending individuals fleeing a misdemeanor offense or even a traffic stop. By engaging in a high-speed police chase for a minor offense or traffic ticket, an officer is endangering innocent people on the roadways.
Even more dangerous is when the chase involves a suspected drunk driver. The last thing the public needs is an intoxicated driver speeding and driving recklessly to avoid a drunk driving arrest. These chases put everyone at high risk of peril and serious injury.
The Dangers of Michigan Police Car Chase Accidents
High-speed police chases put large numbers of people in substantial danger. While officers are trained to drive at high speeds, the people they are chasing are untrained and reckless in their driving. The driver of the chased vehicle has one goal in mind and that is to escape apprehension and a potential arrest. And, it usually involves driving in a reckless and dangerous manner.
As a result, virtually every person on the roadway, and even those off the roads, are at substantial risk of injury or death during a police chase. This includes drivers of other vehicles, passengers in other vehicles, and motorcyclists. These people are in harm’s way just by being on the roadway at the time of the police chase. Quite often, it is an innocent motorist or vehicle passenger that is killed from being struck by the fleeing vehicle or police car.
In addition, bicyclists and pedestrians are also very vulnerable in these situations. Both the chased car and police car often leave the roadway and strike an innocent person riding a bike or just walking on a neighboring sidewalk. These people have little or no chance of surviving a hit from a high-speed car or truck, especially a vehicle being chased by the police.
Police Car Chase Accident Statistics
Police chase accidents result in substantial injuries every year. Innocent motorists and pedestrians struck by either the police car or the fleeing vehicle suffer traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, and other catastrophic injuries.
Published statistics show between 1996 and 2015, there were over 7,000 deaths related to vehicle pursuits by law enforcement agencies in the United States. Tragically, 2,088 occupants of vehicles uninvolved in the pursuit were killed. These are people were killed because the police were chasing another vehicle. And another 277 were nonoccupants, like pedestrians, motorcyclists, and bicyclists died due to a police chase.
Of the total number of police chase car accident deaths, 4,637 were occupants of the vehicles being chased by the police. While one could argue that these occupants put themselves at risk by fleeing an officer, the fact is that many vehicle passengers may be innocent and not involved with any criminal activity and have no control over the fleeing driver.
Using Police Dash Cam Video and Black Box Recorders
In the past, the “word” of the police officer was often the primary evidence in a police chase car accident. The officer would describe the chase and might not provide an accurate statement.
Nowadays, every police car is equipped with dash cam video and a black box recorder. So, the actual events leading up to the chase and the chase itself is caught on video and often with audio of the officers in the chasing vehicle. This provides great evidence at a trial.
In addition, every police car has a black box data recorder, much like commercial airlines. These black boxes record all types of data from the vehicle and can be downloaded and analyzed. Data can show the speed of the police car, the braking by the officer, and all other actions taken by the driver. The data can also show the speed of the police vehicle at the time of impact with another car, motorcycle, bicycle, or person and can be essential to proving and winning your case.
Who is Liable for a Police Chase Car Accident?
There are several potentially liable parties after a police chase accident. An innocent person injured in one of these crashes can pursue claims against all liable parties.
First, claims can be filed against the fleeing driver for the auto accident. These accidents usually involve high-speed chases with the driver of the fleeing vehicle speeding and driving recklessly without regard to the safety of other motorists. Many of these crashes involve a driver running a red light or driving the wrong way down a road and crashing into another vehicle.
If there is insurance on the fleeing vehicle, that insurer will have to pay a settlement to all persons injured by the fleeing vehicle. Unfortunately, many of these are stolen cars and the drivers are fleeing police officers to avoid arrest for driving a stolen vehicle.
Second, the police officer and police department may be liable for injuries caused in a police chase. A police officer must have good cause to initiate to chase a vehicle and should cease chasing another vehicle unless there is a significant threat to the public posed by the driver and occupants of that vehicle. The officer must weigh the hazard of the actual pursuit itself against the potential danger that might result from terminating the chase.
For example, it is clearly not worth chasing a vehicle at high speeds through a suburban area when the basis for the chase is to capture a person suspected of shoplifting at a retail store. Even if apprehended and charged with a crime, that person may only be guilty of a misdemeanor offense and certainly, this is not worthy of endangering the public. The same is true for a person fleeing the police to avoid a traffic ticket or citation.
However, if the occupants of the fleeing vehicle committed an armed robbery or other serious felonies, there may be a reason to continue the chase. These dangerous individuals need to be apprehended to prevent future crimes and harm to the public. But even in these circumstances, the policy may need to terminate a chase if it becomes clear that innocent people are likely to get injured or even die if a high-speed chase puts the public at risk.
In some cases, the police officer fails to use sirens and lights while chasing a fleeing vehicle. As a result, other motorists are completely unaware of chase and do not pull off to the side of the road or even into a driveway or parking lot. This presents a significant danger to the public.
Can I Sue for a Michigan Police Chase Accident?
There are many circumstances in which you can sue for a Michigan police chase accident. Our experienced attorneys will determine who you can sue and the legal theories for filing your lawsuit. Every police chase car accident is different, and our lawyers will evaluate the facts and circumstances of your case and file a lawsuit to get you the maximum compensation.
There are some unique aspects to police chase car accidents in Michigan. Under current law, a passenger in a fleeing vehicle who is also a “wrongdoer” cannot sue the police. Only “innocent passengers” and those not involved in any underlying criminal activity can sue the police.
In addition, an injured person can only sue the police department if the police vehicle caused an injury or death. If the fleeing vehicle strikes another vehicle but there is no contact with the chasing car, then Michigan law restricts the right to sue for damages.
If you were injured by the fleeing vehicle, you can sue the driver of that vehicle and possibly the owner of that automobile, assuming it was not stolen. There may be insurance to pay a settlement caused by the reckless driving of the operator of the fleeing vehicle.
Types of Damage Claims after a Police Chase Car Accident
There are several types of claims you can file after a police chase accident. First, you can sue the driver and owner of the fleeing vehicle. If the vehicle was stolen, the owner cannot be sued under the Michigan Owner Liability Statute. However, the driver may have auto insurance if driving an owned vehicle or the vehicle of a family member or resident relative.
If the fleeing driver does not have auto insurance, you may be able to file an uninsured motorist claim under your own car insurance policy. This provision may pay you a settlement.
You can also file a claim against the police officer and city police department if the evidence shows that the chase itself was unlawful or against policies and procedures. While the governmental entity will dispute your claims, our award-winning police chase accident lawyers will work tirelessly to prove and win your case.
If the police crash results in fatal injuries, the decedent’s surviving family members can file a wrongful death lawsuit. These lawsuits demand compensation for the pain and suffering of the decedent prior to death and compensation for the loss of companionship of the loved one by the surviving family members. Recoverable damages also include financial and economic losses.
Finally, persons injured in a Michigan auto accident can receive No-fault insurance benefits. These payments include payment of medical bills, lost wages, and other great benefits.
How much are Police Chase Accident Settlements?
The amount of a police chase accident settlement depends on many factors. These include the degree of liability by the officer, the conduct of the fleeing driver, and available insurance limits to pay the claim. The severity of the injuries is also a major factor in the settlement amount.
There have been substantial settlements in cases filed for police chase crashes. These include:
- $9,600,000 settlement in a wrongful death lawsuit filed for the family of an off-duty police officer killed by a vehicle being chased by suburban police.
- $2,000,000 settlement paid for an innocent motorist who suffered serious injuries in a police car accident. The police vehicle was pursuing a petty criminal at speeds over 100 mph.
- $1,200,000 settlement paid for a crash that caused the death of an innocent 13-year-old child.
Our attorneys will review your case and discuss with you the likelihood of a settlement for your case. Buckfire Law has the skill and experience to win your case.
How much Time do I have to File a Lawsuit in Michigan?
In Michigan, you have three years after the accident to file your lawsuit against a fleeing driver for injuries suffered in the accident. This is known as the statute of limitations.
However, claims against the State of Michigan and state police officers must be filed within two years of the accident. And, you must file a formal claim against the state within six months.
Time deadlines for filing police chase lawsuits are very forgiving and if you miss a deadline, your case will be lost forever. It is important to contact Buckfire Law today to start your case.
Start your Michigan Police Chase Accident Case Today
Call Buckfire Law today to get started on your police chase accident case. Our award-winning law firm will start working on your case immediately to get you the maximum settlement.
We charge no legal fees unless you win a settlement. And, if we do not recover any money for you, then you owe us nothing. We put that in writing for you.
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