Friday, February 18, 2011

Police Lights Don't Excuse Negligence

Most Virginians have seen police officers speeding down the road with their lights flashing, running red lights and swerving in and out of traffic. We would all like to think that those officers are responding to an emergency and that their speed, and actions are required in order to save a life or prevent a crime. Sometimes this high speed driving, which for the general public would be police accident.jpgstrictly against the law, results in automobile accidents, with resulting injuries.

In Virginia, most cases and officer's actions are protected by sovereign immunity which prevents those officers from being sued for injuries they cause, because they were acting within the scope of their employment. What the public may not know, however, is that in order for an officer to respond to a call with the type of driving described above, the call must be related to an emergency situation. The implication is that if an officer is involved in an automobile accident where a normal member of the public would have been negligent and someone is injured, the mere fact that his emergency lights were activated does not protect him from a civil law suit.

A recent claim, a case against a Fairfax County police officer who ran a red light while responding to a report of a fistfight in progress and struck a vehicle, causing the driver to be ejected and die, was settled for $1.5 million dollars. The Court ruled that because the officer violated department policy by responding to a non-emergency call in an emergency manner, the Plaintiff's injury attorney only had to prove simple negligence to prevail.

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