Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a car accident case that presents interesting issues for motorists who have been injured in a Maryland car accident due to the negligence of a police officer or another government official. The case required the court to determine if an accident victim’s case should be permitted to proceed against a sheriff’s department that continued a high-speed police pursuit, ultimately resulting in the fleeing driver crashing into the plaintiffs’ car. Since the court found that a jury may find that the sheriffs involved acted with “reckless disregard,” the court permitted the plaintiffs’ case to proceed.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiffs were seriously injured when a fleeing motorist struck their car while the plaintiffs were stuck in traffic in a busy intersection. According to the court’s opinion, the chase began almost an hour earlier when another sheriff’s department observed the driver fail to maintain a single lane of travel.
The sheriff who initiated the pursuit eventually lost control of his vehicle and crashed, resulting in another sheriff department taking over the pursuit. Evidence showed that there was significant traffic at the time, and the suspect was driving aggressively, sometimes over 120 miles per hour.
The pursuing sheriff testified that at one point, the fleeing motorist threw out a bag of white powdery substance that landed on the deputy’s windshield and exploded. However, the deputy’s dash cam video did not show this, and there was no mention of the white powdery substance in the audio recording of the police radio communications.
Eventually, the fleeing motorist entered a crowded intersection and collided with the plaintiffs’ car. Both plaintiffs were injured as a result. The fleeing motorist was apprehended, and a small bag of marijuana was found in the car. The fleeing motorist was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The plaintiffs filed a personal injury lawsuit against both sheriff departments. The court agreed that the plaintiff failed to show any evidence that the sheriff department that initiated the chase acted with sufficient recklessness to overcome government immunity. However, the court held that the sheriff department that took over the chase may have acted with reckless disregard.
The court looked at the sheriff department’s written policies on high-speed chases, which stated that good judgment must be used when determining whether to initiate and continue a chase. The court considered that there was a high volume of traffic at the time, that the driver was operating the vehicle aggressively, and that the initial offense was only a minor traffic violation. Taking all of this into account, the court held that the plaintiffs did present sufficient evidence to submit their case to a jury.
Have You Been Injured in an Accident with a Maryland Police Officer?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Maryland car accident involving a police officer or another government official, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The dedicated Maryland personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience representing victims in a wide range of car accident claims, including those involving negligent government actors. To learn more, and to speak with an attorney about your case, call 410-654-3600 today.
More Blog Posts:
Maryland Car Accidents Involving Out-of-State Drivers, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published December 4, 2017.
Court Reverses Car Accident Plaintiff’s Summary Judgment Award Regarding Future Medical Expenses, Maryland Car Accident Attorney Blog, published December 18, 2017.