Hit by a Police Car? Making a Wrongful Death or Injury claim

By Greg Kohn

Hundreds of people get killed every year in the United States by police cars engaged in pursuits. Far more people get injured in these law enforcement chases and survive. Many of these deaths and injuries happen to people who were innocent bystanders either on foot or in uninvolved vehicles. 

Imagine that your loved one lost his life when obeying the law. You would want to go after the party responsible. Suing the government is tricky and challenging. A New Jersey personal injury attorney can protect your right to seek compensation for personal injury or wrongful death if you or a loved one got hit by a police car. Making a wrongful death or injury claim can be done in these situations, but you need to know the unique rules that apply to these cases.

Usually, You Cannot Sue the Government

The doctrine of sovereign immunity goes back to kings in England. Ordinary citizens had no right to sue the king. Our legal system adopted this concept, but there are some notable exceptions. First of all, the general rule of sovereign immunity is that you cannot sue a government entity for harm that results when the entity or its employees were acting within the scope of their employment. 

In our state, we have the New Jersey Tort Claims Act (TCA) that gives innocent bystanders the right to sue the law enforcement agency involved if the individual gets hurt or killed because of a police chase. If the employee of the agency committed an act or omission that was the proximate cause of the collision that injured or killed the person, the agency can get sued just like anyone else. It is no defense that the employee’s act was within the scope of the worker’s employment. 

Why Negligence is the Key to Winning a Police Chase Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Claim

You do not have to show that the officer was acting outside the scope of authority at the time of the crash, but you do have to prove that the officer’s negligence caused or contributed to the collision. Negligence is necessary in cases against police departments, just as in claims against an ordinary person.

Also, you might be able to sue the officer personally if you can show willful misconduct. Ignoring a specific order or disobeying a superior officer’s specific lawful command can constitute willful misconduct. Usually, however, the best chance of recovery is against the law enforcement agency. These items could amount to negligence:

  • The agency does not adequately train its officers on the protocols they must follow when engaged in high-speed pursuits.
  • The department does not follow its own regulations that pertain to police chases.
  • The agency’s regulations do not meet the federal law requirements for police pursuits.
  • The department or agency failed to respond appropriately to previous violations of the rules that cover police chases.

Your situation could involve other facts that could be evidence of negligence.

Taking Action Quickly Is Essential

You have far less time to take legal action if you want to sue a government entity for personal injury or wrongful death. Also, you will have to follow different procedures to avoid having your case dismissed for failure to follow the special rules that apply to these cases. With so much at stake, you will want to talk to a New Jersey personal injury attorney right away to protect your claim for compensation. Contact our office today for a free consultation.

About the Author
Greg Kohn is a partner at Nagel Rice and specializes in complex civil litigation cases, including professional malpractice, personal injury, class actions, wrongful death, products liability, and commercial litigation.  He has extensive experience representing clients in both state and federal court. Greg has tried many jury trials to verdict and has recovered over $50 million in settlements and verdicts in all types of personal injury matters including automobile accidents, wrongful death cases, slip and falls, and other catastrophic injury cases. Greg also handles medical malpractice cases, involving misdiagnoses, wrongful birth, and delayed cancer diagnosis. If you have questions regarding this article, you can contact Greg here.