Georgia has set forth policies regarding safe police pursuits, and provides them to police departments and officers. However, officers sometimes violate or disregard some of the procedures, either through their own will or as a result of their department’s approach to police chase, to the point where pursuits becomes dangerous for bystanders and other motorists.
An Atlanta Police Department spokesperson said a 57-year-old Atlanta man was killed and two others suffered serious injuries in a wreck on March 15 that involved a police car. The investigation revealed that an Atlanta officer was responding to a call when a minivan attempting to turn onto Beeler Drive veered into the officer’s path and collided with the police car on Cleveland Avenue around 1:30 a.m.
Rescue crews had to cut free the minivan’s three passengers. The front passenger was pronounced dead at the scene, while the driver and another passenger suffered severe injuries and were rushed to Grady Memorial Hospital. The police officer was also taken to the hospital, but was reported to have sustained non-serious injuries. It was not immediately known whether the lights and siren on the police car had been activated at the time of the crash.
Georgia’s policies regarding police pursuits are extensive, requiring officers on the scene to consider several basic factors, including the nature of the suspect’s offense, the population density in the area, the time of day, and the weather. Officers must break off police pursuits when it is clear that risks to the public and officers outweigh the need to immediately apprehend a suspect.
In the United States, more people are killed in police pursuits than by police firearms. In police chases, innocent third parties are in great danger of either being struck by the chased suspect’s vehicle or by the pursuing police car. To make the public aware of these dangers, officers are required to activate their vehicle’s lights and siren during a chase.
In determining civil liability in police chase accidents, the most common cause is negligence. Any driver–whether a civilian or a police officer–has a responsibility to other people on the road. While chasing officers are generally not liable for the injuries of a speeding suspect, they have a duty to prevent bystanders and other motorists from foreseeable harm.
Police departments can be sued for chase injuries, but it is often a challenging task. Georgia does not allow civilians to sue a responding officer unless the plaintiff is able to show that the officer acted negligently or violated law enforcement procedures. Police negligence can be difficult to prove, particularly in a police chase scenario.
If you have been injured or have lost a loved one in a police chase accident, it’s important that you discuss your case with an experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney to protect your rights and best interests.