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Pennsylvania Police Chase Accidents and Liability – A Case Study

Police chases often begin with a routine traffic stop. An officer attempts to pull a vehicle over for a traffic violation. The driver of the vehicle may fear apprehension on an arrest warrant or for other criminal conduct.  He or she fails to stop for the traffic violation and speeds away. The officer reacts and give chase.

Say in this scenario, it is 3:30 p.m. on a weekday and the chase is continuing through the streets, near an elementary school. The officer knows that within moments, local school children will be crossing the streets, but continues to chase the suspect anyway. The vehicles reach speeds of over 60 miles per hour. Moments later, a child crossing the street is struck by the suspect’s vehicle.

Depending on factors such as where the accident occurred and seriousness of the injury sustained, here is a brief description of the liability which may flow from this accident scenario:

1. Negligence claim against the driver of the vehicle being chased

If the driver of the vehicle was covered under a valid insurance policy, that insurance policy may provide coverage for the accident. However, it is important to note that some auto insurance policies will not provide coverage to their insured in a chase or other criminal situation. However, it is still important to name the driver of the vehicle in a lawsuit so as to obtain valuable information about insurance, ownership of the vehicle and the chase.

2. Negligence claim against the owner of the vehicle

If the driver of the vehicle is NOT the owner of the vehicle, the owner of the vehicle may be liable for letting the driver borrow their car. This is known as a negligent entrustment claim. The auto insurance carrier for the owner of the car may also provide coverage in this accident scenario. This would be a potential source of financial recovery for the injured child.

3. Negligence claim against the police department engaged in the chase

Most police chase liability situations depend on the facts and circumstances surrounding the case. Factors such as time of day, number of bystanders present, likelihood of an accident, and nature of original offense giving rise to the chase are important. In addition, whether the officer complied with the police department’s internal chase policies will be another important factor.

Under Pennsylvania law, lawsuits against government agencies like a local or state police department cannot proceed unless the injured party served notice of the intent to sue the government within 180 days of the date of the accident. This notice requirement is mandatory.

4. Insurance claim against the child’s own auto insurance company

Depending on the circumstances, and the terms of the child’s parent’s auto insurance policy, the injured child may be able to make a claim for either uninsured or underinsured benefits. Such benefits are available to an insured person (here, the child under his or her parent’s policy) in situations where the wrongdoer did not have insurance coverage.

It is important to discuss any potential police chase accident case with a lawyer with experience handling negligence claims against government agencies as well as car accidents.

More from our Pennsylvania police chase accident and liability law library:

Pennsylvania Police Chase Accident & Injury Lawyers

If you’d like to have your case reviewed by our Philadelphia, Pennsylvania police chase accident lawyers, call 215.925.4451. For nearly 30 years, our firm has been helping the injured in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Our lawyers are available for a free, no obligation legal consultation.

*This website does not provide legal advice. Every case is unique and it is important to get a qualified, expert legal opinion prior to making any decisions about your case.  See the full disclaimer at the bottom of this page.

Published: September 24, 2012



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