Unmarked cars serve a vital purpose in law enforcement and can often prevent crime or injury before it even happens. Unlike normal police cars, which drivers are often on the alert for, unmarked cars can sneak up on others on the road and can create a risk of accidents during high speed pursuits.
City Settles Chase Lawsuit
The City of Baltimore is now about to pay a settlement amount of $500,000 to resolve a lawsuit arising from three deaths that occurred during a 2013 high speed chase involving an unmarked police car. The accident occurred when a suspect for drug distribution, who was being pursued by the unmarked cars, collided with the victim’s car at around 100 miles per hour. Three people in the victim’s vehicle were killed.
There was some evidence that dispatchers had ordered the officers to give up chase, but that order was ignored or not heard. The police cars were traveling at speeds of around 80mph in 30mph zones, covering about four miles in 3.5 minutes. The suspect was travelling through red lights during the chase.
The officers did have their emergency lights and sirens on, and there was some testimony that after being told to stop the chase, the officers did drop back and lower their speeds, buy did not abandon the chase completely.
Limited Funds for the Catastrophe
Given that three individuals lost lives, $500,000 in total for all of them may seem like a modest sum to compensate for the devastation. However, Maryland’s laws cap damages that a local government can be forced to pay for one accident at that amount.
The victims did sue and recover from the actual alleged drug distributor’s insurance policy, but it is not known how much was recovered. Unfortunately, in many cases, private drivers have modest insurance policies, which do not come close to fully compensating those who suffer catastrophic injuries.
Law Has Since Changed
Many people are not aware that police have any liability at all for accidents that they cause on the road, particularly as they are doing their duties. Surely, officers should and do have wide leeway in how they drive, particularly when they are in the midst of pursuing someone, pulling someone over, or protecting the public.
At the time, the law required officers in Baltimore to give up high speed chases, unless the circumstances were dire or exigent. Those laws have since been changed, allowing officers to engage in high speed chases so long as a felony is committed, the suspect has a high chance of harming others, and the officers believe the risk in letting the suspect go outweighs the risks inherent in continuing the pursuit.
But while the analysis of police liability for injuries may be different than that of an ordinary citizen, it does not mean that officers can not be held negligent when they do not follow their own safety procedures.
Government agencies can be held liable for their actions if they injure others. Contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss your case.