An evening police chase last month tragically led to a car accident, resulting in one fatality and injuries. The case raises important questions about how and when the government and police may be held liable when they cause Maryland car accidents.
According to a local news report covering the incident, the crash occurred around 8:15 one evening as a man, driving a vehicle and wanted in a homicide, led police on a chase throughout the city. During the chase, the man crashed the vehicle—a dark-colored Jeep—and ran to a nearby gas station where he stole an idling 2016 Nissan SUV. He left the gas station and took off again, with police following. While the police cars were chasing the Nissan, one of them slammed into a Ford Explorer. The police car then spun out and hit a Hummer stopped at a red light. The drivers of the Ford and Hummer, as well as the Hummers two passengers, were all taken to the hospital. Unfortunately, the driver of the Ford, a 37-year-old woman, died shortly after.
Typically, Maryland residents affected by tragic car accidents are able to bring a civil suit against the responsible driver to recover for the injuries caused, or the wrongful death of a loved one. The case, however, becomes more complicated in situations such as this one, where the at-fault driver is a police officer. Government employees have historically enjoyed sovereign immunity from tort claims such as negligence or wrongful death arising out of car accidents. However, the Maryland Tort Claims Act changed that and now allows accident victims to bring certain claims against the Maryland government or their employees.