As many local drivers know, motor vehicle crashes are a fairly regular occurrence on the roads of Decatur, Georgia. While many of these crashes involve vehicles operated by ordinary drivers, occasionally, they involve police vehicles or vehicles driven by on-duty officers. Making a legal claim for financial compensation for an auto crash is complicated enough, but when a law enforcement officer is a part of your accident, the process gets even more complex.
When you sustain bodily injury from an accident with a police vehicle, it’s crucial to immediately seek medical treatment for your physical injuries. You should also understand your legal rights and options for receiving appropriate compensation for your damages and injuries.
If you’re involved in a crash with a police car or other governmental agency’s vehicle, you should respond in the same way as any auto collision.
If anyone is injured, report the accident to law enforcement, which will arrive at the scene, and call an ambulance if necessary. Next, get the details of the driver involved and their vehicle, including their address, name, license plate, vehicle registration, and phone number. This might be challenging if they leave the accident scene to attend to an incident, but you can contact the relevant emergency service to identify the at-fault driver. Plus, emergency vehicles typically have black boxes which track their location and speed.
You should also take down details of how the accident occurred, such as the location and time of day, and get the details of any witnesses. Any evidence you can provide to your insurance agent will help your odds of a successful accident claim.
Emergency services often have procedures for dealing with collisions involving the public and this may make sorting out an accident claim easier when they’re involved.
Typically, when a driver drives carelessly or recklessly, they are considered at fault for the accident. This usually involves actions that violate traffic laws, like ignoring stop signs, running red lights, or speeding. In an accident like this, the careless driver is found negligent and is held liable for financial damages and bodily injuries that arise from the crash.
However, the situation changes a bit with emergency service and police vehicles. When emergency service and police vehicles are responding to emergency calls and using their sirens, they are exempt from traffic laws. Therefore, when a law enforcement officer is operating an authorized emergency vehicle, responding to an incident, and using their sirens and lights properly, they may not be held liable for the accident.
If you get hit by a police vehicle while they’re responding to a call, you might wonder who is held liable for personal injury and other financial damages. Unfortunately, there’s no straight answer for this — it depends on the specific details of how the accident took place. Unlike a regular accident where the at-fault driver is responsible for your damages, the liability rules for a collision with a police car are more complex.
For example, in the state of Georgia, “sovereign immunity” was a hurdle you had to deal with when you were involved in a legal dispute against a law enforcement agency or state agency. Sovereign immunity means those police officers and other related officials are generally immune from being sued for bodily injuries or being held liable for accidents.
In 2002, however, O.C.G.A. 36-92-1 et seq. was enacted, which waived this immunity and required government agencies to be liable for personal injuries caused by automobile collisions that resulted in a minimum of $500,000 in financial damages per person and $700,000 per accident — unless the government agency has coverage available for higher amounts.
This law partially resolved the issue of injured car accident victims being left uncompensated because of the failure of law enforcement officers or other government entities to purchase insurance. Regardless of insurance coverage, there is now at least a partial waiver to sovereign immunity.
If you’re having trouble understanding sovereign immunity, here’s an example. Let’s say you are injured in an automobile accident that was caused by a Georgia Highway Patrolman. If you were to pursue legal action, you couldn’t sue the state of Georgia, but you could sue the highway patrolman, as long as they caused the crash while acting outside of their regular job duties. However, if the patrolman was responding to a call, using sirens, or otherwise acting within the scope of their duties, they have legal protection from being held liable.
The rules are also slightly different if you are in an accident that is caused by an officer from a municipal law enforcement department. If this is the case, you can file a complaint with your town or city government.
For legal actions against a city agency, such as the Atlanta Police Department, you only have six months to take legal action, according to the O.C.G.A. & 36-33-5. If a state highway or county sheriff patrol vehicle caused your crash, a 12-month deadline may apply to your ability to file a lawsuit, according to O.C.G.A. § 50-21-26.
If you’ve been injured in a crash caused by the police, it can be complicated and time-consuming to hold the police accountable and request that they compensate you for your physical injuries and financial losses. One option to avoid this and partially recoup your losses is to get your insurance to pay for your car repairs, but this is only applicable if you have collision or comprehensive coverage.
If you are at fault for the accident, you may have to pay for the monetary damages that arose from the collision. In some instances, the police department may just give you a traffic citation for causing the crash. In other instances where the police department is insured, the insurance company may file a claim against you and your auto insurance company. This claim would involve requesting reimbursement for benefits that the police department’s insurance provider paid out, such as the repair costs for the police vehicle.
No matter how simple you may think your case is, it’s always a good idea to hire an experienced auto accident lawyer to represent you when you’re involved in a crash with a police officer.
Filing a legal claim against law enforcement is very complex, and it’s incredibly easy to miss key notification requirements or deadlines if you don’t have the proper legal experience. Mistakes like these can cause your accident claim to be completely dismissed, which is the last thing you want.
When you hire an experienced car accident attorney, they will ensure that your claim is pursued diligently and properly. Your auto accident attorney will fight against efforts from the police to paint you as liable for the accident. They will also work hard to hold a negligent officer responsible so that you receive the proper reimbursement for your financial and bodily injuries.
If you or a family member have been injured in a traffic accident involving a police car in Decatur, you need experienced legal counsel to fight for you. Get in contact with the Decatur car accident attorneys at Mark’s Law Group now at (678) 251-9309 to schedule an initial no-cost consultation.