What Happens If You Get Into an Accident With an On-Duty Police Officer?
Police officers are sworn to protect and serve the public, but they’re
not immune to automobile accidents. Despite being provided with additional
training, officers can make the same mistakes and suffer the same lapses
of judgment as ordinary motorists. Officers who are responding to emergency
calls are also more likely to be involved in serious accidents
Being involved in an accident with an on-duty officer poses a few unique issues that aren’t seen in accidents involving civilians. The following explores some of these issues in-depth and the various ways they can affect your personal injury claim.
What Should Be Done Immediately After the Accident?
In most cases, the steps you should take in the aftermath of an accident with a police officer will be the same as any other vehicular accident. After determining whether or not you need medical assistance, you should report the accident to your insurance provider. You should also contact your attorney immediately after the accident, as you’ll likely need guidance when it comes to filing and settling any personal injury claims that arise from the accident.
Will You Be Held At Fault for the Accident?
The question of who to hold at fault for the accident depends on a variety
of factors. Here are a few that may impact you or the police officer when
it comes to assessing fault:
• Distracted driving
• Reckless driving
• Driver fatigue
• Failure to give way to a police vehicle with active siren and lights
• Driving under the influence of a controlled substance
• Driving without regard to adverse weather conditions
• Operating a police vehicle outside of departmental rules and regulations.
Just because a police officer is involved does not mean that you are automatically at fault.
How Much Time Will You Have to File Your Claim?
In addition to reporting the crash to your insurance provider, you’ll also need to file a damage claim with the local or state agency represented by the driver responsible for the crash. Current Washington State statutes give you three years to file your claim before the statute of limitation ends.
Will the Officer’s Dash Cam Footage Be Used?
Most police vehicles are equipped with a dash-mounted camera that captures video footage and provides a recorded account of the officer’s whereabouts and actions. Whether or not this evidence may be used in court depends on a wide variety of factors, including the police department’s policy on releasing such footage to the general public.
If you have a dash cam of your own, you may be able to enter your own footage as evidence. This can provide a cooperative narrative to the events that took place or, in some cases, offer contradicting evidence that places the officer’s initial account in doubt.
Is Sovereign Immunity Applicable?
In cases involving malicious or negligent acts performed by government officials, there’s always the issue of sovereign immunity. Sovereign immunity is a legal doctrine that essentially relieves law enforcement officers and other government officials of liability when operating under their official capacities. Under most circumstances, sovereign immunity can make it nearly impossible to bring forth a claim against a police officer as long as they’re acting within the scope of their regular duties.
However, there’s always an exception to the rule. Sovereign immunity does not protect government officials from claims of gross negligence or criminal conduct. If it can be proven that your accident occurred due to gross negligence on the police officer’s part, you may be able to pursue your case and seek compensation for your injuries and other damages.
If you need help dealing with a difficult personal injury case, Rob Kornfeld is the attorney to turn to. With his successful record of settling auto accident cases, you can rest easy and focus on recuperating from your injuries. Call 1-800-282-4878 or (425) 893-8989, or send an email for a free consultation at a location that’s convenient for you.