What Happens if a Police Officer Causes a Car Accident?

December 1, 2022

police accident

What Happens if a Police Officer Causes a Car Accident?

Although the job of the police is to protect the public from harm, they are human and not always perfect. When a police officer is in a chase pursuit or going at high speeds to help, it can increase the risk that they are not only involved in an accident; they can be at fault for causing one. As a citizen, however, due to police officer legalities, it can be difficult to receive fair compensation for your injuries if you are in an accident with the police and you’re not at fault. The key to compensation is taking the appropriate steps following your accident. Do you know what those steps are?

Can A Police Officer be Liable in an Accident Involving a Police Vehicle?

In a regular situation where vehicles are involved in an accident, typically the driver who was at fault is responsible for paying for the other motorist’s injuries. When emergency vehicles are involved, however, they are typically exempt from traffic laws that apply to the public if they are responding to an accident and using their siren and lights. It might be that a police officer at fault in an accident might not be held accountable or deemed negligent if they are operating an emergency vehicle at the time of the accident. 

Negligence is Determined On a Case-By-Case Basis

If you are hit by a police officer who is responding to a call in an emergency vehicle, the particulars of the case itself are very important in whether the police officer can be held liable or not. Motor vehicle accidents that involve an emergency vehicle are much more complex than other at-fault litigation. When pursuing litigation against a police officer, there is something called “sovereign immunity,” which changes the legality of who is liable. In Georgia, motorists have a very limited ability to bring a lawsuit against any government employee or office – and in some instances, they have none at all.

 What Does That Mean for Motorists Who Are Injured by an Emergency Vehicle?

Legally, if you are injured by a Georgia Highway Patrol officer, even if the officer was at fault, you are not allowed to sue Georgia for compensation. You may, however, have the right to sue the officer if they were acting outside the scope of their duties when the accident occurred. If you are involved in an accident with a municipal police officer, you can file a complaint with the town or city government as long as it is within six months of the accident. You must go through the claim process to negotiate your settlement. Since it differs from regular car accidents, you must have legal representation to receive compensation.

Steps to Take After Being Involved in an Accident with an Emergency Vehicle

The steps that you take immediately following any accident can affect your eligibility for compensation, and this is even more the case if an emergency vehicle is involved. After the accident, if no one is seriously injured, the officer will call dispatch to have another officer investigate the case and provide medical services, if necessary. Make sure to request a copy of any reports that are generated. 

Also, take photographs of the scene, including the location of the vehicles involved, skid marks, road lines, weather and traffic conditions, and any other peripheral objects. Even if you feel like your injuries are benign, it is vital to seek medical care. Often, the damage caused by an accident shows up well after the event, so it is important to document everything, whether you think it is serious or not. The next critical step is to call a car accident attorney as soon as possible. 

If you are involved in an accident with a police officer, determining liability is much more complex than in an accident with a civilian. Due to sovereign immunity, you might or might not be able to hold the police officer liable. It is critical to hire a car accident attorney if you are ever in an accident and injured, especially if there was an emergency vehicle involved. Contact the Califf Law Office to schedule your appointment to discuss the specifics of your car accident today!